WACO, Texas (CN) – A Texas district attorney dropped all criminal charges Tuesday against the 24 remaining defendants in a 2015 biker gang shootout at a Twin Peaks “breastaurant” that killed nine and injured 20.
McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson announced the decision three months after he took office, meaning no one will be held criminally responsible for the deaths.
Over 150 people were initially charged after the shootout at the Waco restaurant on May 17, 2015. The rival Bandidos and Cossacks biker gangs were reportedly engaged in a dispute over the latter wearing a “Texas” bottom rocker patch on their vests without permission from the Bandidos, who claim Texas as their territory.
The only defendant to have gone to trial was Jacob Carrizal, president of the Dallas Bandidos chapter. He had faced three organized criminal activity charges, but a mistrial was declared in November 2017. He was facing up to life in state prison.
Prosecutors unsuccessfully argued Carrizal had prepared his bikers for violence before a biker coalition summit at the restaurant, to which the Cossacks were not invited.
Johnson said it is “time to end this nightmare that we have been dealing with” for four years.
“There were nine people who were killed on that fateful day in Waco, Texas, and 20 injured, all of whom were members of rival motorcycle clubs/gangs, and the loss of life is a difficult thing,” Johnson said in a written statement. “But after looking over the 24 cases we were left with, it is my opinion as your district attorney that we are not able to prosecute any of those cases and reach our burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Johnson defeated his predecessor, former District Attorney Abel Reyna, in last year’s Republican primary based on his criticism of the bungling of the shootout prosecutions. Last May, Reyna dropped all charges against 63 of the bikers, then refiled charges against three of the bikers the next day that he deemed were “more culpable.” Johnson again blamed Reyna’s inaction for Tuesday’s decision.
“In my opinion, had this action been taken in a timely manner, it would have, and should have, resulted in numerous convictions and prison sentences against many of those who participated in the Twin Peaks brawl,” Johnson said. “Over the next three years the prior district attorney failed to take that action, for reasons that I do not know to this day.”
Johnson added it cost the county over $1 million to prepare for Carrizal’s trial.
“To open that Pandora’s Box back up and start down that road again when we don’t feel that, after looking at the facts and the evidence, that we would be able to meet our burden of beyond a reasonable doubt would be irresponsible, in my opinion,” he said.