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'The war will never end': Fears grow about more biker gang violence

CNN - \"A high number\" of those involved in Sunday's shootout involving rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas, came from outside the Texas city, Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.

Swanton explained that a coalition of several biker groups had reserved part of the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco when \"an additional biker gang who was not invited to this meeting showed up.\" Violence subsequently erupted, with the police spokesman noting there were \"crime scenes inside and outside\" the restaurant, including the parking lot.

The incident left nine dead and 18 hospitalized. Of the latter, seven remained in local hospitals Tuesday, said Swanton, who added that \"all are stable and most are improving.\"

Threats against law enforcement in the wake of the have \"toned down\" over the past 24 hours, according to the police spokesman.

[Original story published at 8:50 a.m. ET]

Things were a little quieter Tuesday morning in Waco, Texas. Police still had a large presence around the Twin Peaks restaurant where rival biker gangs waged a deadly brawl-turned-shootout days earlier, but their numbers appeared diminished. They took away more motorcycles, making it look more like a parking lot and less like a crime scene.

Does this all point to peace coming to this swath of central Texas?


In the immediate future, there's concern about more members of the Bandidos and Cossacks flooding the area -- to prop up and protect other members, to stand in for those arrested, to attend funerals and, the fear is, to continue the fight their brothers had on Sunday. This is in line with a May 1 memo from the Texas Joint Crime Task Force warning that the violence between the rival groups \"has increased in Texas with no indication of diminishing.\"

Recent events prove these tensions could flare at any moment. We're not talking fisticuffs: Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton noted authorities found shell casings, weapons, knives, clubs, even chains with padlocks around Twin Peaks.

Yet a government informant, who goes by the name \"Charles Falco,\" doesn't think another battle is imminent. Biker gangs prefer to lay low, he told CNN's \"New Day,\" something that is impossible now in Waco given the massive law enforcement response and media attention.

But that doesn't mean they're done fighting. Far from it, according to Falco, the author of \"Vagos, Mongols, and Outlaws.\"

Biker gangs \"like participating in war\" and take matters of pride and turf seriously, he said Tuesday. Their members don't forget, though Falco also said they tend to be \"very patient.\" He predicted Tuesday that all sides \"will back off for now\" so the situation can calm down, then lash out in nine months to a year.

There's no telling when, or if, the violent cycle will stop beyond that.

\"Anytime a biker gang war starts, it never stops,\" said Falco, who infiltrated biker gangs for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. \"Thirty, forty years from now, you'll still be reporting about these biker gangs fighting each other. The war will never end.\"

The gathering storm

Whether Falco's forecast holds true, authorities aren't taking any chances. Not after what happened Sunday. And not in light of the law enforcement memo warning that members of the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle gangs have reportedly been told to arm themselves and travel to central Texas.

Speaking Monday on CNN's \"Anderson Cooper 360,\" Swanton urged \"biker groups to stand down.\"

\"There's been enough bloodshed,\" he said. \"There's been enough death here.\"

And Swanton warned other biker gang members against coming to Waco to reignite the violence.

\"We would encourage them not to, because we have plenty of space in our county jail to put them there,' he told CNN affiliate KTVT.

The turf war

Sunday's brutal beat down at a Twin Peaks restaurant had been brewing for a while.

The gangs knew it. The police knew.

It boils down to territory, according to Falco and Steve Cook, a Kansas City-area police detective who has also infiltrated biker gangs.

While they have members elsewhere, both the Bandidos and Cossacks call Texas home. The Bandidos have been the biggest and most dominant; as such, while they \"allow other motorcycles clubs to exist, they're not allowed to wear that state bottom rocker,\" Falco said. \"If they do, they face the onslaught of the Bandidos.\"

Not familiar with the bottom rocker? It's the state name on the back of a biker's vest. It kind of looks like the curved bottom of a rocking chair, hence the name.

The rocker can indicate where someone is from, but it's also a territorial claim for that club. That's why the Bandidos and Cossacks aren't getting along, according to Falco.

\"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,\" he said.

Falco said the fight is about being able to \"be the biggest man on the block (and) say, 'This is ours.'\" But Cook says it goes beyond pride, insisting biker gangs \"are also claiming all the criminal activity that goes along with\" being top dog.

\"These guys are organized crime,\" Cook told CNN on Tuesday. \"They are involved in a laundry list of racketeering activities. They use (manufacture, and) sell drugs. They steal motorcycles. They extort people. They rape, rob and murder.\"

Yet Jimmy Graves, a high-ranking Bandidos member, challenges such claims -- calling out \"lies on TV (including) telling everybody that the Bandidos are after police departments.\"

\"We're not like that,\" he said. \"The 60s are long gone.\"

Bandidos v. Cossacks: Was the Texas biker shootout over territory?

The shootout

While biker gangs have been accused of many things, rarely are their activities on the scale of what happened Sunday.

The United Clubs of Waco billed Sunday's event as the Texas Region 1 Confederation of Clubs and Independents meeting.

A heavy law enforcement presence was there -- both inside and outside -- fearing conditions were ripe for a clash between the rival gangs.

An altercation in a Twin Peaks bathroom seems to have sparked the violence. Shots were fired inside the eatery and a brawl spilled onto the patio area, before scores of men flooded the parking lot in broad daylight. Some bikers were beaten with brass knuckles, clubs and chains, while others were stabbed or shot, Swanton said.

When police responded -- within 30 to 45 seconds because of their proximity -- the bikers turned their weapons on law enforcement, he said.

\"Our officers took fire and responded appropriately, returning fire,\" the sergeant said.

Of the nine deaths, a law enforcement source says preliminary information indicates that four of the bikers were killed by police gunfire. The investigation continues and the ballistics will be analyzed to determine for certain who was responsible for each shooting.

At least five biker gangs were involved in the violence, a law enforcement source said. In addition to the Cossacks and Bandidos, photos from scene also showed the insignias of the Scimitars and Vaqueros.

By the time it was over, police had confiscated more than 100 weapons and arrested at least 170 people, according to Swanton. That number includes people who came with weapons after the initial chaos had subsided.

Swanton called it \"the most violent and gruesome scene that I have dealt with\" in three and a half decades of law enforcement.

A history of biker gang violence

$1 million bond for each of scores arrested

Scores of suspects remain locked up in the McLennan County Jail, facing charges of engaging in organized crime, Swanton said.

Prosecutors and investigators could level other charges -- and capital murder charges are expected to be among them, given the body count -- but the organized crime charge is \"pretty serious,\" he said.

\"It doesn't get much more significant than that,\" he said.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said bond was being set at $1 million for each of the 170 people in custody.

While the U.S. Justice Department characterizes the Bandidos as a \"growing criminal threat\"with at least 2,000 members in 14 countries, the motorcycle club's website highlights noncriminal endeavors such as its Easter party in Germany or its toy drive in France.

The Justice Department had no such synopsis for the Cossacks, but the book \"The One Percenter Encyclopedia: The World of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs from Abyss Ghosts to Zombies Elite\" says they were founded in Texas in 1969 and have a major presence in Australia.

Bandidos President Jack Lewis was released on $125,000 bond in December 2013 after being charged with the stabbing of two Cossacks outside a restaurant in Abilene, Texas, KTXS reported.
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