Matthew Alan Clendennen sued Waco police Officer Manuel Chavez, Waco, McLennan County, and 20 Doe officers in Federal Court on Friday, alleging constitutional violations.
Clendennen was charged with “the capital offense of engaging in organized criminal activity,” jailed under $1 million bond, and police seized his bike to try to sell it for profit, he says in the lawsuit.
Clendennen graduated from Baylor University and runs a business that employs six people. He was a member of the fire departments in Hewitt and Marlin, small towns near Waco, and supports his wife and four children, he says in the complaint.
Clendennen says he had no criminal record before his May 17 arrest. Nine people were killed and at least 18 injured in the May 17 melee when the Twin Peaks restaurant’s “Bike Night” degenerated into a fight between rival bike gangs, the Bandidos and Cossacks, and police.
Clendennen, a “recreational motorcyclist” who belongs to the Scimitars Motorcycle Club, says he did absolutely nothing wrong that day, and in fact was hiding from the violence when police arrested him and seized his bike.
Police arrested more than 170 people on identical charges, all of whom were given $1 million bonds, “with no regard to their individual situation,” Clendennen says in the complaint.
The criminal complain t accuses Clendennen of being “a member of a criminal street gang, [who did] commit or conspire to commit murder, capital murder, or aggravated assault, against the laws of the State.”
Clendennen says that’s absurd:, “No reasonably competent police officer in Chavez’s position could have concluded that a warrant should be issued against plaintiff Matthew Alan Clendennen based on the allegations against him in the ‘fill in the name’ criminal complaint.”
He also claims that Chavez and other officers “intentionally withheld material information regarding plaintiff Matthew Alan Clendennen in the criminal complaint such as the facts that he was not a member of the Cossacks nor the Bandidos, that he did not participate in any of the violence occurring at Twin Peaks and, in fact, hid from the violence.”
Clendennen blames Waco for a policy of allowing police to use “fill in the name” criminal complaints without individualized facts.
And he claims that Waco has a policy “to illegally seize vehicles from those illegally arrested with the hopes of selling those vehicles for a profit.”
Texas law allows government agencies to seize property through a civil lawsuit even if there is no criminal case. This has made civil forfeitures profitable for district attorneys. A report from the Public Policy Research Institute says that from 2003 to 2012, state law enforcement agencies confiscated $486 million in asset forfeiture cases.
The Waco Tribune-Herald reported that McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, who took office in 2011, has used forfeiture to take more than $1 million of contraband, including cars and computers.
Clendennen’s attorney, Clinton Broden, told Courthouse News that Clendennen was merely hanging out with his biker buddies at Twin Peaks and had no idea there would be a shootout. The only weapon Clendennen had was a mini pocket knife, which his parents gave him for Christmas, and which he never brandished.
Clendennen says his arrest puts him in jeopardy of losing custody of two of his children.
He posted a $100,000 bond this week and was released from jail.
He seeks damages for lost income, damage to his reputation, mental anguish, loss of use of his motorcycle and attorney costs.
Waco said it does not comment on pending criminal and civil matters.Another man arrested at the shootout filed a habeas petition last week, challenging his arrest and $1 million bond.
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