By Nigel Boys
One of the members of the biker gangs, which wreaked havoc over the weekend in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, leaving nine people dead and at least 18 injured, is Martin Lewis, a retired detective of the San Antonio Police force.
In a release on Tuesday, the department confirmed that 62-year-old Lewis, who is one of over 170 people arrested during the shootout, served with them for 32 years, before retiring in February 2004.
Some of the suspects, who have all been charged with engaging in organized crime, may end up facing the death penalty, instead of serving five years to live in prison, if those charges are upgraded to murder, according to reports. Most of the those arrested, believed to have been from as many as five different biker gangs, including the Bandidos, Cossacks, Scimitars, Leathernecks and Los Pirados, were given bond of $1 million, reports the Daily Mail.
Stating that the resources of McLennan County District Attorney Abelino Reyna, will be overwhelmed, defense lawyer Walter Reaves Jr., said “It’s pretty much un-chartered territory for anybody,” according to USA Today. “It’s going to put a strain on the entire court system,” he added, noting that Reyna has only about a dozen felony prosecutors.
“The magnitude of the arrests is amazing,” said former federal and state prosecutor, Michael Heiskell, adding that he didn’t expect many of the suspects to continue to trial. “It could break the bank in McLennan County,” because the cost of a death penalty case can go up to $1 million.
Predicting that some of the federal charges will be plea bargained down, because the county will have to pay the costs if defendants are unable to, Heiskell continued, “I think when the dust settles you may have maybe a few capital charges filed.”
Apart from authorities’ obvious difficulties in handling the vast number of jailed suspects, trying to keep the rival gang members from further violent exchanges, law enforcement officers have been warned to look out for other biker members coming into the area. The Cossacks and Bandidos have reportedly told members to head to Waco and kill law enforcement officers, according to state and federal memos distributed to local cops.
Although a confrontation between the Cossacks and the Bandidos, has reportedly been in the making for several months, the whole incident apparently kicked off when one biker had his foot run over by a member of a rival gang, gathered at what they call a “breastaurant.”
The tension between the two gangs started when the Cossacks angered their adversary’s after claiming Texas as part of their territory, by placing a patch on their “bottom rocker” vests, Edward Winterhalder told the Daily Mail Online. The former member of the Bandidos, who has written 10 books about biker gangs, claimed that trouble had been brewing between the rival gangs since this incident one year ago.
“The Cossacks decided they were big enough and strong enough,” continued Winterhalder. “The Bandidos told them to take it off, but they didn’t back down.”
Although the Cossacks outnumber the Bandidos by about 200 to 150 in the area, the latter formed in 1966, three years before their rivals in Texas, and have more support biker groups than the Cossacks, Winterhalder stated. Even after the fact they have a long-running feud, he doesn’t believe either gang meant it to go so far. “It got out of control in the moment. I don’t know if we’ll ever know who’s to blame,” Winterhalder added.
“The Bandidos are the biggest motorcycle gang in Texas, and they don’t allow other motorcycle gangs to enter that state,” an undercover police infiltrator of the gangs, known only as “Charles Falco” wrote in a memo to authorities, according to CNN. “They will allow other motorcycle clubs to exist, but they’re not allowed to wear that state bottom rocker. If they do, they face the onslaught of the Bandidos.”
The informant continued, “The Cossacks decided that they were big enough now to go ahead and wear the Texas bottom rocker, and basically tell the Bandidos that they’re ready for war.”
“In 34 years of law enforcement, this is the worst crime scene, the most violent crime scene that I have been involved in,” Waco police Sgt W Patrick Swanton said at a Sunday press conference. “’There were dead everywhere, blood everywhere,” he continued, adding that authorities believe the shoot-out to be “somewhat of a turf war.”