Texas prosecutors drop dozens more cases from Waco shooting
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Prosecutors on Tuesday dismissed more than 60 cases stemming from a 2015 shooting in Waco involving rival biker clubs that left nine dead, the latest sign of serious trouble for an ambitious pursuit of convictions following the deadliest biker shooting in U.S. history.
McLennan County prosecutors tossed out 66 more cases and have dismissed or refused 154 of the original 192 cases since February, saying they wanted to focus on those who were “more culpable.” Officials said in late April that only about 25 cases will be prosecuted of the more than 150 people ultimately indicted on felony charges of engaging in organized criminal activity.
Police arrested nearly 200 bikers following the mayhem at a Twin Peaks restaurant involving members of the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs. Waco police officers monitoring the gathering also fired on the bikers, shooting at least two fatally.
Only one biker — Jake Carrizal, a locomotive driver and the president of the Dallas chapter of the Bandidos — has been tried and it ended in a hung jury and a mistrial last fall.
The county’s district attorney, Abel Reyna, said in a statement in February announcing the first round of disposed cases that information gleaned during Carrizal’s trial was “invaluable” in his office’s decision to narrow the focus of its investigation. That trial was fraught with delays as Carrizal’s defense attorneys repeatedly demonstrated to the presiding judge that prosecutors had not shared all of the evidence required by law.
Reyna added that prosecutors were expecting to review evidence from a federal racketeering trial in San Antonio against the former president and vice president of the Bandidos after it had concluded.
The trial ended Monday, and it is unclear whether prosecutors in Waco have reviewed any federal evidence. Reyna declined to comment Tuesday.
The bulk of the dismissals and refusals followed Reyna’s defeat in a Republican primary election in March.
A judge on Monday dismissed one of the four cases Reyna recused his office from prosecuting, an action Reyna said was taken to avoid the appearance of a conflict. In the motion to dismiss, Brian Roberts, a special prosecutor in the case, said that the biker, Matthew Clendennen, a landscape-lighting business owner in Hewitt, Texas, should never have been charged.
“Frankly, you can’t just wholesale charge 192 people because they were wearing vests and have some connection with a motorcycle club,” Roberts said, adding that “there’s more to a charging decision. Presence alone is not enough.”
Surveillance footage showed many bikers running from the scene and ducking for cover after gunshots rang out. A smaller number could be seen pointing and firing weapons, slinging a chain or participating in fistfights. Law enforcement officers recovered dozens of firearms, knives and other weapons from the restaurant and adjacent parking lot, many of which officers organized indiscriminately into piles on the pavement and in the back of a police vehicle, dash-cam video showed.
By Tuesday, only 37 of the original 154 bikers remained under indictment. Bikers and defense attorneys expected additional dismissals during another status hearing set for Thursday in Waco.