WACO — Nine people were killed and 18 other people were injured in a confrontation involving "criminal" motorcycle gangs at a Twin Peaks restaurant on the south side of Waco early Sunday afternoon.
Police say 170 bikers were booked into the McLennan County Jail to be charged with Engaging in Organized Crime. That number has decreased from 192, originally reported by police Monday. Each was being held on $1 million bond. Other charges may be pending.
Waco police spokesman Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said some of the dead and wounded may have been struck by gunfire from law enforcement.
"They started shooting at our officers and our officers returned fire," he said.
Officers arrived at the restaurant shortly after noon Sunday after a conflict was reported between at least two biker gangs. The altercation apparently began with an argument inside a restroom at the restaurant. It quickly escalated and moved into the parking lot.
No police officers or innocent civilians were injured. One officer suffered from heat exhaustion and was hospitalized.
The wounded suffered from gunshot and stab wounds, Swanton said, and the two most seriously injured individuals were transferred to other hospitals for advanced treatment.
"It is a pretty gruesome scene," Swanton said, adding that investigators from multiple agencies were dealing with bodies, shell casings and other paraphernalia at the Central Texas Marketplace shopping center.
Close to 100 weapons were recovered from the scene, including brass knuckles, knives and clubs. Police said they hope to have the crime scene cleared "by dark" on Monday.
Swanton said Sunday that authorities were concerned gang members were moving to other parts of the city to continue the confrontation elsewhere.
They were threatening police overnight, and Swanton said Monday that Waco police have "credible intelligence" to believe that biker gang leaders gave members the "green light" on law enforcement.
Investigators spent the night collecting evidence. Hundreds of cars and motorcycles are still in the parking lot, many of them covered in bullet holes. All bodies have been recovered from the crime scene.
Swanton said overnight he learned that off-duty officers on the scene jumped in to help during the fight.
"They without a doubt did a hell of a job," he said.
At least five biker gangs were involved in the incident, some of which were fighting as allies, Swanton said.
"In 34 years of law enforcement, this is the worst crime scene, the most violent crime scene that I have ever been involved in," Swanton added.
He was also very critical of the local management of the Waco Twin Peaks, saying they had failed to cooperate with law enforcement agencies trying to deal with biker gangs. He said Monday that the restaurant had been warned for about two months, but it has the right to serve whoever it wants.
Twin Peaks Operating Partner, Jay Patel, released the following statement:
"We are horrified by the criminal, violent acts that occurred outside of our Waco restaurant today. We share in the community's trauma. Our priority is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our customers and employees, and we consider the police our partners in doing so. Our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police and we will continue to work with them as we all want to keep violent crime out of our businesses and community. We will continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this terrible crime."
Sgt. Swanton called Patel's statement an "absolute fabrication." He stated Monday that Twin Peaks' national office was contacted about a week ago after local management wouldn't help.
By noon Monday, Twin Peaks national office confirmed they have revoked the Waco location's franchise agreement.
A spokesman for the Twin Peaks franchiser in Dallas, Rick Van Warner, released a statement Monday.
We are in the people business and the safety of the employees and guests in our restaurants is priority one. Unfortunately the management team of the franchised restaurant in Waco chose to ignore the warnings and advice from both the police and our company, and did not uphold the high security standards we have in place to ensure everyone is safe at our restaurants. We will not tolerate the actions of this relatively new franchisee and are immediately revoking their franchise agreement. Our sympathies continue to be with the families of those who died and are very thankful no employees, guests, police officers or bystanders were hurt or injured.
The TABC said Monday that it will ban liquor sales at the Waco Twin Peaks location for seven days and conduct its own investigation. Police said the restaurant could still sell food during that time, but they hope the location will close out of respect for the victims and to provide a "cooling-off period."
Police ordered the entire Central Texas Marketplace closed for the safety of employees and patrons. The west side of the shopping center is expected to open on Monday.
SWAT teams were on standby away from the crime scene, ready to deal with any unexpected events. Game wardens have been called in from surrounding counties to help police control traffic. They have blocked off some streets in downtown Waco.
Police will continue to provide updates throughout the day.
"I will be extremely transparent throughout this process. We will not hide anything from anybody," Swanton said.
Watch Sgt. Swanton's entire update on the investigation in the video below: