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Police charge 170 after 'gruesome' shootout between biker gangs

Nine people died and 18 were wounded in the incident.

Updated 6.48pm

Source: ABC News/YouTube

POLICE IN WACO are on alert for any retaliatory attacks after a chaotic shootout between rival biker gangs left nine people dead and at least 18 more wounded outside a Texas restaurant.

Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said authorities had received threats against law enforcement “throughout the night” from biker groups and stood ready to confront any more violence resulting from Sunday’s gunfire.

“We have a contingency plan to deal with those individuals if they try to cause trouble here,” Swanton said at a news conference.

About 170 people were arrested on charges of engaging in organized crime. Earlier, Swanton said 192 people had been arrested but later revised that number downward.

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.

Preliminary findings indicate a dispute broke out in a bathroom, escalated to include knives and firearms, and eventually spilled into the restaurant parking lot, according to police.

Panicked patrons and bystanders fleed or safety after the violence erupted.

Waco Shooting Police said all the dead were members of the Bandidos or Cossacks gangs. Source: AP

Eight people died at the scene of the shooting at and another person died at a hospital. All nine were members of the biker gangs and 18 were injured.

Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said he is “amazed that we didn’t have innocent civilians killed or injured.”

“This is probably one of the most gruesome crime scenes I’ve ever seen in my 34 years of law enforcement,” he said.

Waco Shooting Nine people were killed in the shootout. Source: Associated Press

At least 100 people have been detained for questioning, Swanton said late Sunday night.

Swanton said at least five rival gangs gathered at Twin Peaks for a meeting that he said focused on turf and recruitment, two areas where the groups have often clashed.

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.

Waco Shooting Patrons ran panicked from the the centre after the shooting started. Source: Associated Press

Swanton described the interior of the restaurant after a Sunday night walk-through, saying it was littered with bullet casings, knives, a club, bodies and pools of blood. Authorities would be working the rest of the night to process the reams of evidence, he said.

Police were aware of the meeting in advance, 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.

“We’ve been made aware in the past few months of rival biker gangs … being here and causing issues,” Swanton said.

Waco Shooting It's believed 150 to 200 gang members were in the restaurant at the time of the shooting. Source: Associated Press

Officers shot armed bikers, Swanton said, adding that the actions of law enforcement prevented further deaths. It was not known if any of the nine dead were killed by police officers.

Swanton said that the restaurant’s operators also were aware of the meeting in advance, and he described the management as uncooperative with authorities in addressing concerns.

Waco Shooting People leave a restaurant in Waco, Texas. Source: AP

“Apparently the management (of Twin Peaks) wanted them here and so we didn’t have any say-so on whether they could be here or not,” Swanton said.

A statement sent Sunday night on behalf of Jay Patel, operating partner for the Waco franchise, said, “Our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police,” and added that the restaurant was cooperating with the investigation.

Swanton addressed Patel’s statement late Sunday night, calling it a “fabrication.”

Rick Van Warner, a spokesman for the Dallas-based corporate franchisor, said the company is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the shooting and is “seriously considering revoking” the Waco location’s franchise agreement.

Van Warner said he couldn’t address what the franchise owners “did or didn’t do leading up to this,” but added that the company is “very upset that clearly our standards of safety and security were not upheld in this particular case,” he said.

APTOPIX Waco Shooting Bikers stand outside after the shootout. Source: AP

Doug Greeness, a biker from Belton, Texas, was near the scene Sunday evening. He said he’s a member of a family riding club and was waiting for friends to be released from custody so he could return home.

Greeness, who was not inside the restaurant when the melee broke out, described the event as a meeting of a biker association called the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents. He said the group meets to “discuss issues within the biker community.”

Officers from numerous law enforcement agencies were seen parked along the service road for I-35 near the city and were stationed in several points in downtown Waco around the local convention centre. Swanton said authorities are increasing security in the area to prevent further violence among the gangs.

Parts of downtown Waco were locked down after the shootout with officials stopped and questioned motorcycle riders. Agents from the FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting in the investigation.

Waco Shooting The scene off Interstate 35 in Texas. Source: AP

“I am feeling a lot of anxiety,” said Darhonda McFarland, assistant manager at a Denny’s restaurant at the nearby Flying J Travel Center. McFarland told the Waco Tribune that some 30 bikers clad in black walked into the restaurant shortly after the shooting.

They sat down but then abruptly got up and left, she said. About five minutes later, a SWAT team arrived, searched the restaurant and questioned people in the parking lot.

“I have never personally been caught up in anything quite like this from such a personal point of view. It was too close for me,” she told the newspaper.

Originally published 7.45am

Read: Video: US gun violence costs lives. But how much money does it cost? >

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