A Texas city was under near-lockdown today after a shoot-out between rival motorcycle gangs at a restaurant left nine bikers dead.
Authorities increased security to quell fresh attempts at criminal activity in Waco following the melee yesterday that also left 18 bikers wounded, Waco police sergeant W Patrick Swanton said.
The violence erupted shortly after noon in a Twin Peaks restaurant at a busy shopping centre where members of at least five rival gangs had gathered for a meeting, Mr Swanton said.
Preliminary findings indicate a dispute broke out in a bathroom, escalated to include knives and firearms, and eventually spilled into the restaurant car park, according to police.
“I was amazed that we didn’t have innocent civilians killed or injured,” Mr Swanton said.
The interior of the restaurant was littered with bullet casings, knives, a club, bodies and pools of blood, he said. Authorities were processing the evidence at the scene, south of Dallas.
About 150-200 bikers were inside during the shoot-out, and at least 100 were detained, authorities said. It was not immediately clear how many were arrested.
Parts of central Waco were locked down, and officials stopped and questioned motorcycle riders. Agents from the FBI and federal bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives were assisting local and state authorities in the investigation.
Police and the operators of Twin Peaks were aware of the meeting in advance, Mr Swanton said, and at least 12 Waco officers in addition to state troopers were outside the restaurant, part of a national chain that features scantily clad waitresses, when the fight began.
Officers shot armed bikers, Mr Swanton said, adding that the actions of law enforcement prevented further deaths. It was not immediately clear whether any of the nine dead were killed by police officers.
McLennan County sheriff Parnell McNamara, whose office is involved in the investigation, said all nine who were killed were members of the Bandidos or Cossacks gangs.
In a 2014 gang threat assessment, the Texas department of public safety 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 methamphetamines, according to the US department of justice.
The Texas assessment does not mention the Cossacks.