About 170 motorcycle gang members charged with engaging in organised crime are each being held on a million-dollar bond in the wake of a deadly shootout in Texas, and authorities say capital murder charges are expected.
McLennan County judge WH Peterson set the bond for each suspect and described the amount as “appropriate” given the level of violence that occurred at a restaurant in Waco.
Mr Peterson also performed inquests on the nine dead bikers but declined to identify them pending notification of family. He said all nine were from Texas.
Waco police Sergeant W Patrick Swanton said that while capital murder charges are likely, it is too early to determine how many gang members will face the charge.
Police are on alert for any retaliatory attacks after the chaotic shoot-out outside a branch of the Twin Peaks restaurant chain.
Sgt Swanton said authorities had received threats against law enforcement “throughout the night” from biker groups and stood ready to confront any more violence.
“We have a contingency plan to deal with those individuals if they try to cause trouble here,” he said at a news conference.
The shoot-out erupted shortly after noon at a busy shopping centre where members of at least five rival gangs had gathered for a meeting, Sgt Swanton said.
Preliminary findings indicate a dispute broke out in a toilet and escalated to include knives and guns. The fight eventually spilled into the restaurant car park.
“I was amazed that we didn’t have innocent civilians killed or injured,” Sgt Swanton said.
The interior of the restaurant was littered with bullet casings, knives, bodies and pools of blood, he added.
Meanwhile, the Twin Peaks group – a national chain that features waitresses in revealing uniforms – has revoked the franchise rights for the Waco restaurant.
Company spokesman Rick Van Warner confirmed that the venue’s franchise agreement will be terminated.
The restaurant opened last August and Waco police say it has since been the scene of several biker gang gatherings. Police said restaurant managers did not co-operate when authorities expressed concern about those gatherings.
Mr Van Warner said in a statement that the management team chose to ignore warnings and advice from the company, and did not establish the “high security standards” the company requires.
About 150 to 200 bikers are believed to have been in the restaurant at the time.
Parts of central Waco were locked down, and officials stopped and questioned motorcycle riders. Agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting local and state authorities.
Police were aware of the meeting in advance and at least 12 Waco officers and more state troopers were outside the when the fight began, Sgt Swanton said.
Officers shot armed bikers, he said, but it was not immediately clear whether any of the nine dead were killed by police.
McLennan County sheriff Parnell McNamara said all nine who were killed were members of the Bandidos or Cossacks gangs.
In a gang threat assessment last year, the Texas department of public safety (DPS) classified the Bandidos as a Tier 2 threat, the second highest. Other groups in that tier included the Bloods, Crips and Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.
The Bandidos, formed in the 1960s, are involved in trafficking cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, according to the US department of justice.
El Paso authorities in 2012 said several Bandido members were involved in an assault and robbery at two bars, according to the assessment. State arrest warrants were issued for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, engaging in organised crime and other crimes, and six of the suspects were arrested.
The Bandidos conduct their activities as covertly as possible to avoid publicity, according to the DPS assessment. Members are not covert, however, about making their presence known by wearing their colours and insignia, and riding in large groups.
The Texas assessment does not mention the Cossacks.
There is at least one previously documented instance of violence between the two groups. In November 2013, a 46-year-old from Abilene who police say was the leader of a west Texas Bandidos chapter was charged over the stabbings of two members of the Cossacks club.