Police Abuse

4 Reasons that Waco Biker Gang Shootout Reflects Badly on Police

One of the bikers arrested sues Waco police for having no cause for the arrest.

|

What was initially reported as a motorcycle gang shootout that killed nine and wounded 18 to which police heroically responded last month in Waco, TX, at the Twin Peaks restaurant seems a bit more complicated, and bit worse for the cops, than that as further details have been revealed.

This week one of the people arrested at the scene, Matthew Clendennen, filed a lawsuit directly against the officers involved in the incident (Manuel Chavez by name, the others as John and Jane Does) as well as the city.

From that suit filing, in which Mr. Clendennen presents himself as a man with no criminal record, former fireman, small business owner on whom employees depend, and father of three who also depend on his ability to earn income, not to rot in jail. He insists he committed no crime and had no intention of committing any crime when he was arrested while in the Twin Peaks restaurant in the aftermath of the shooting event, and that:

Despite the fact that…Clendennen committed no criminal acts he was arrested at Twin Peaks on or about May 17, 2015 without probable cause and his motorcycle  was illegally seized….On or about May 18, 2015, Chavez, aided by [unnamed other police officers], presented a criminal complaint (the "criminal complaint") against…Clendennen to Justice of the Peace Walter H. "Pete" Peterson (Peterson)….The criminal complaint alleges that Plaintiff Matthew Alan Clendennen committed the capital offense of engaging in organized criminal activity and is attached hereto as Attachment A.

It is believed that Peterson was chosen by Chavez, Does 1-10 and Does 11-20 because he is a former Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper with no formal legal training……the identical criminal complaint used in Plaintiff Matthew Alan Clendennen's case was used to justify the arrest of more than 100 other individuals and only the names were changed in the various criminal complaints.

The complaint alleges absolutely no individualize probable cause to establish that Plaintiff Matthew Alan Clendennen engaged in organized criminal activity. Moreover, Chavez…failed to inform Peterson that Plaintiff Matthew Alan Clendennen was not a member of the Cossacks nor the Bandidos and that he did not participate in any of the violence occurring at Twin Peaks but instead hid from the violence.

Clendennen is claiming that 170 people on the scene were just rounded up and arrested, in many cases had their motorcycles stolen by police, and were given a uniform $1 million dollar bond with no particular individual reason to believe they had committed any crime at all. He's actually trying to hit not just the city government, but the specific officers who arrested him, with liability for violating his rights. He claims to be at risk of losing both any custody of two of his children and his landscaping business while in jail.

According to this local NBC report, it will be months before those arrested at Twin Peaks get a probable cause hearing. But this week the insanely high bond was reduced for many of them, and some of them started getting out.

There are at least four reasons to wonder if the police account and actions about the motorcycle gang shootout that they allege to have pacified are above reproach:

1) As Clendennen's lawsuit notes, there is insufficient reason to believe that all the 170 arrested even committed any actual crime.

2) The police originally claimed that all those they arrested were members of the two "criminal gangs" most implicated in the deaths, the Bandidos and Cossacks; Associated Press found that not only were they not all members of those specific gangs, but whatever the criminality of the gangs, 115 of the arrested had no criminal records in Texas at least.

3) The police originally claimed over 1,000 weapons were confiscated on site, a number then downgraded to 318; but having a weapon on one's person is neither evidence of having committed nor having planned to commit a crime, but certainly can when announced to the press make some nervous people think, wow, glad the police started opening fire on that crowd!

4) Despite police reports that the fighting and shooting began inside the restaurant and spilled out, closed-circuit footage of the restaurant seen by AP and reports from the restaurateurs to the AP indicate the shooting began outside, which is where the police already were.

The police were already surrounding the restaurant in force, ready for action. Exactly how and why they began firing on the bikers and what happened before then should not necessarily be trusted merely from their mouths. They still have not officially announced how many of the dead or wounded were shot by police themselves.

Advertisement

NEXT: Watch Matt Welch Talk Surveillance, Hillary, and Huckabee on Red Eye at 3 a.m. ET

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I used to think that no matter how incompetent and inefficient government was in general (Vietnam War, NASA after Apollo), that at least some things were better handled by government, and some things could only be handled by government.

    After reading Jesse Walker’s radio history and how spectrum allocation was handled without government for a long time, I gave up that fairy tale and no longer believed there was anything that only government could do.

    And after growing up with racist power-mad cops as a kid (Selma, SF hippies), the more modern militarization of police, and the expansion of videos following Rodney King, I know longer have any trust in cops. None. When this story was first reported, I was still naive enough to think there must have been some kernel of truth in their narrative, but it only took a day or so to realize it was typical cop corruption in the old fashioned sense of rotting.

    It will be really interesting how this turns out and how many heads roll as the coverup unravels.

    1. After reading Jesse Walker’s radio history and how spectrum allocation was handled without government for a long time, I gave up that fairy tale and no longer believed there was anything that only government could do.

      That leap in logic could take you into near-Earth orbit. And it did.

      1. We do need government…to wage all the pointless wars.

        Right?

    2. . . . how many heads roll as the coverup unravels.

      Ima go out on a limb here and say – none.

      1. Medals all around!

      2. They’ll find some scapegoats. 100+ lawsuits for rotting a couple of months in jail with charges dismissed? Sounds like class action to me, and even the worst corruption won’t be able to sweep that under the rug.

        1. Dude jumped on a car hood and unleashed 15 rounds at a pair of unarmed people, after a lengthy chase involving several other police and over a hundred rounds fired – all over a misunderstanding.

          The worst thing that happened is *one* cop made it to trial and got an acquittal.

          I don’t see anything happening to these cops because they’ll throw dirt into the water to muddy it, claiming that they were responding to what they *perceived* as a threat and did what was necessary to restore order.

          Lawsuits will be filed, payments paid out, and then business as usual after that. Probably won’t even see the Justice Department get involved.

          1. The two dead guys had felony records, and one cop was charged.

            Here there are 170 people who couldn’t make the original $1M bail, and 100+ of them have no criminal record. That’s 100+ lawsuits. They simply can’t duck it, and they sure as heck can’t afford the payouts.

            Quantity is its own quality, as Stalin supposedly said.

          2. Qualified immunity for the arm of the state.

            Suppose walmart security agents acted in this manner. Does anyone believe they would receive the same immunity as the cops?

            Walmart would be in trouble as a company, and the security service would go bankrupt after something like that. Maybe Walmart would go out of business along with them too. The restitution they would have to shell out would probably help that along. No private arbiter would dare side with Walmart, as they too would be responsible and liable for their decisions.

            Why the hell folks can’t put two and two together and realize the only way to respect liberty is through private security that is accountable for their actions by free individuals in the market.

            Why are folks hell bent on reforming something that violates liberty with its very existence and funding by way of extortion???

            1. “Why are folks hell bent on reforming something that violates liberty with its very existence and funding by way of extortion???”

              We’ve always done it this way?

            2. “Why the hell folks can’t put two and two together and realize the only way to respect liberty is through private security that is accountable for their actions by free individuals in the market.”

              I don’t buy this. I am libertarian on a lot of things, but not this one. Too much damage could and would be done to too many people with private security firms. Especially in smaller rural areas. The same thugs would join these firms. They would own these firms. IMO we need an accountable police force. Which we don’t have now. And, with that we need 20,000 less laws.

              Native reserves in Canada have their own police forces, and it does not work. The native police forces run things for the ruling families. They have even killed people, with impunity, because they control the process.

              1. You should buy it. Private security firms with ZERO police powers outperform real police.

                http://thefreethoughtproject.c…..vate-firm/

          3. “Unarmed” except for the Lethal Weapon they were driving and attempted to run over LE with.
            Other than the truth, the world will little note, nor long remember, what was lost in this minor skirmish of good over evil.

  2. “It’s almost surreal. There’s blood splatter blood evidence everywhere there still food on the tables half eaten hamburgers half-drunk margaritas. It’s the most surreal thing I’ve ever seen. We’re talking unimaginable numbers of evidence that we’re going to have to live from this crime scene. Blood still on parking lot is an environmental issue at this point.”

    That is some mighty fine commentary.

    1. “Oh the humanity!”

  3. I suspected as much when in the original stories it came out that the police told the Twin Peaks that they should throw out paying customers “or else” and then blamed them for the dispute.

  4. “The criminal complaint alleges that Plaintiff Matthew Alan Clendennen committed the capital offense of engaging in organized criminal activity and is attached hereto as Attachment A.”

    Sounds like they arrested him simply because he is a member of a motorcycle club, which is a clear violation of his constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

    “Having a weapon on one’s person is neither evidence of having committed nor having planned to commit a crime”

    It should also be noted that in Texas having a weapon on one’s person with a permit is not a crime.

    If 316 people had been arrested for parole violations, they would have said that.

    1. Since when is “engaging in organized crime activity” a “capital offense”?

      1. When people are murdered in a criminal conspiracy, all co conspirators can be charged with the murders.

        1. Which immediately falls apart when the killing is done by the cops. They’ve admitted to killing half the 9 already. I think that number will creep up to all 9 once the laundry starts to dry. I think this will turn out to be police using guns to quell the sort of “riot” that still commonly accompanies many English Football derbies.

        2. That’s called felony murder, not “engaging in a criminal conspiracy.” The murder is the capital offense, not the conspiracy itself.

          1. Pretty sure the Bandidos, Cossacks, Hells Angels and several other biker gangs are treated the same as if they were named Gambino, Bonanno, Colombo, etc. I think when murder is an underlying charge in a RICO case, it is automatically elevated to capital murder.

        3. “When people are murdered in a criminal conspiracy, all co conspirators can be charged with the murders.”

          Unless they are cops and shoot only 137 times at two unarmed people who were speeding in Cleveland.

    2. Yeah, I’ve got a friend who’s in a motorcycle club (don’t call it a gang!!!). Periodically they’re bitching about one of their own who’s been falsely accused of one thing or another. I usually think to myself, ‘perhaps if you guys didn’t completely model your image around that of the actual gangs to include the beards, tats, colors/vests, dive bars, etc, you might not get lumped in with them accidentally’. Just a thought…

      1. Arresting everyone dressed in a uniform manner to those actually rioting, I am okay with. I also hope that this particular person gets off if the cops don’t produce individual probable cause. Using this story where a guy riding a motorcycle and wearing leather gets arrested while at a location where a large group of the other people dressed in a distinct and similar manner were rioting to highlight police abuse is not a great way to go.

        1. I can think of a certain other group of armed thugs wearing uniform colors and driving in similar vehicles that I wouldn’t mind seeing subject to mass arrest…

      2. I don’t see it that way at all.

        Not all MCs are outlaws.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorcycle_club #Types_of_clubs.2C_groups_and_organizations

        And much of what you think of as image is practical riding gear.

        The cops certainly should be free to hassle people because of the way they’re dressed.

        I don’t care if it’s because you look like a biker, a goth, wear a zoo-suit, or wear a turban, what you’re wearing doesn’t constitute probable cause.

        1. “The cops certainly [shouldn’t] be free to hassle people because of the way they’re dressed.”

          FIXED!

        2. Not all MCs are outlaws.

          *Most* MC’s are not outlaws. Most are middle-aged men who can afford an over-priced Harley. Or young punks on rice-rockets.

          And from what it is sounding like, *most* of the MC people at that gathering in TX were not in ‘outlaw’ motorcycle gangs at all.

          1. Yeah, and even if they were in an outlaw MC, being a member of a group isn’t a crime.

            You have to actually commit a crime in order to be justly found guilty, and the cops need probable cause to arrest you.

            I see crips and bloods all the time. They can’t arrest you just because you’re a crip or blood. Being a member of a group is not probable cause.

            This isn’t like Al Qaeda. The President has a congressional authorization for the use of military force against Al Qaeda. Apart from that, there isn’t anything libertarian about arresting people for being a member of a group.

          2. It was a “Bike Night”, not an “Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Night”.

        3. I concur. I’m a rider too, just of the rice burning variety. However, a t-shirt and a leather club vest doesn’t really scream practical riding gear to me, BUT it does increase the likelihood that you’ll be mistaken for other folks. And if a member of an innocent club gets in a scuffle at a bar (the example I was recalling), they might just find they’re treated differently by johnny law.

          1. I wouldn’t be caught dead on a Harley, but they’re the canary in the proverbial coal mine.

            It’s bad enough as it is–motorcycles get pulled over way more often than everyone else. We’re generally hated for being on a bike. And when we get pulled over, our chances of being hassled by the cops are much higher than they are for other people. At some of my old favorite haunts, the cops just sit there at the bars and watch us all day. And I look more like someone out of Moto GP rather than someone in the Hells Angels, too.

            That being said, denim and leather are pretty good protection in a spill. If you go to an MSF class and tell them you’re wearing denim and leather for protection, their only complaint is going to be that it might not be bright enough. And anyway, we should all be free to do wear we want so long as it doesn’t violate someone else’s rights, and there isn’t anything about the way Harley riders dress that violates anybody’s rights.

            Ten years from now, if driverless cars become commonplace, we’re the first bunch they’re going to kick off the roads. They’ll get rid of sport bike riders first, too. We’re hated more than biker gangs. The Hells Angels are mythical stories to a lot of people. Sport bikes, on the other hand, are conspiring to kill their teenage sons (and daughters).

      3. She was asking for it. Look how she’s dressed.

      4. I used to own a bar. No colours of any type were allowed. You could be a Hell’s Angel, a couple of good customers were Angels, but no colours, and no Daytons.

        The wannabes were more of a problem than the actual criminals. The Angels if they came into my bar, except on one occasion, were problem free. They were too deeply into criminal culture to allow themselves to get arrested because of a bar fight.

        The problem ones were the guys who thought they were tough and were in a peripheral MC club, but weren’t actually criminals.

        And, a lesser problem group were accountants and lawyers who thought they suddenly became ‘street’ as soon as the jacket and boots went on. They had stupid attitude.

        1. By the way, I”ve been riding for 49 years. I ride a VFR right now.

          1. Only 49 years?
            You’re a newbie.

  5. And yet, the left likes to claim that the police are softer on “white” crime as opposed to black.

    For all the cop presence, I don’t recall police mowing down rioters in Ferguson or Baltimore, nor mass arrests the kept people in jail for months. What arrests there were, the people were largely out on bail the next day.

    1. #BlackLivesMatter

    2. Look, did the cops all go home safely? Because that’s all that matters.

  6. And then, there’s this..

    1. she asked why she was being arrested, he responded: ‘You know why – you’re being a smartass.’

      To which, she replied, ‘and where is that in the penal code’??!

      1. To which he replied – get in the van and we’re going to show you the ‘penal code’.

    2. I wonder how often “obstructing government duties” is anything legitimate. In our little echo chamber it is uniformly contempt of cop.

      For the “few bad apples theory, we could look for the top ten percent of officers who use that charge and move them to duty away from the public or fire them. It should be a good proxy for “power mad dick who should never have power over another human.”

    3. She got huge … tracts of land.

  7. he did not participate in any of the violence occurring at Twin Peaks but instead hid from the violence.

    Any man don’t wanna get killed better clear on out the back.

  8. When this first blew up, I made a jump and said, maybe the bikers started brawling and maybe a gun was pulled and fired – then the watching cops started spaying into the crowd. We’ll see if we get a full accounting of the bullets pulled from the wounded and dead. If some of them, accidently of course, go missing, I’m going to stick with my scenario.

  9. So to continue the DerpBook comparisons many of my friends and family made of the disparate treatment of the “biker gangs” of Waco and the “thugs” of Baltimore, exactly how many peaceful demonstrators in B’more were rounded up and charged with participation in organized crime because “a few” decided to go on a looting and burning rampage in the same place at the same time?

    I’m also very curious to find out definitively how many of the dead are attributed by ballistic evidence to the cops.

    1. “Ballistic evidence” What, like the evidence they didn’t even bother analyzing in the Brelo case? Remember, since cops are involved the evidence will almost certainly be inconclusive…
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…..27710.html

      1. Dude, come on. We’ll just bring in the FBI forensics lab to — oh. OH.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..story.html

      2. Steve, the ballistic evidence was thoroughly evaluated and debated in the Brelo case. From your link:
        “While prosecutors argued they were alive until Brelo’s final salvo, medical examiners for both sides testified that they could not determine the order in which the fatal shots were fired.”
        And the judge referred to the ballistics in his hour-long statement and used it to let Brelo off.

        Exactly who fired the fatal shots should NOT have been critical to getting a conviction if the prosecutor had charged Brelo correctly.

        1. “could not determine the order”. In other words, inconclusive. But your point is well taken.

    2. It won’t surprise me at all if it comes out that the cops did all the shooting, and nothing else happens.

      1. *nods in resignation*

    3. Yea, i have no great love for bikers, but when all the lefties started going on about bikers v thugs i couldnt help but think to myself how the left would react if the police insisted that a restaurant couldnt host an event with that many blacks because it would surely mean trouble. (*cough* Black expeo *cough*)

  10. Unreal. So now when our heroes in blue feel like it they can murder 9 people and arrest anyone else on dubious charges ? With the near blackout on the story lately I’m leaning towards this being really bad for the Waco PD, so we will just pretend it never happened.

    1. The civil rights suits have already started coming. I doubt they will be able to completely sweep this under the Thin Blue Rug.

  11. Related biker story in WSJ regarding the feds clearly overstepping:

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/fe…..1433107921

    1. Behind paywall.

  12. I’m just curious:

    Were any of the cops attending this event armed with full auto weapons?

    If not, would anyone care to speculate about the body count if they had been?

  13. as this fish gets older its setnch gets worse. Identical criminal complaints for 170 arrested? No known ties to the “gangs”? We still don’t have autopsy reports from those shot… nor hospital records from the wuonded survivors. From what I’ve read, all nine killed were hit ONLY by police rounds. NO cops were even hit. Sorry, but if those riders are typical of those I’ve known (not many, but enough) that is imposssible. I have no doubt many of those present are well skilled with handguns. No way could a few hundred of them be there and armed, and NOT hit at least one of the cops if they were actually shooting at them.
    This may well be what busts open the long standing corruption of the Waco city government and police force.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.