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special report
Jury deliberations stall in Carrizal Twin Peaks case

Jurors in the Jacob Carrizal Twin Peaks shootout trial deliberated more than nine hours Thursday without reaching a verdict and were sequestered for the night.

At about 10:45 p.m., Judge Matt Johnson ordered the jury to be sequestered at a hotel and to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Friday. After deciding they would discontinue deliberations, the jurors asked to call their families to let them know they’re OK and to make arrangements for fresh clothes and medication.

Johnson said they could make one phone call in the presence of a bailiff.

County officials say this is the first time in at least three decades a jury in McLennan County has been sequestered.

At 9:15 p.m. Thursday, the jury sent a note to Johnson saying they were deadlocked on all three counts against Carrizal. The note said “Mr. P indicated he has personal experiences with the Cossacks and his opinion won’t change.” The judge instructed jurors to continue deliberations.

Court officials brought the jury dinner at about 8 p.m. as deliberations continued.

About four hours into deliberations, jurors asked if they could watch video from Waco Police SWAT officer Michael Bucher’s dash cam.

Johnson arranged for the video to be played in the jury room so the jury would not have to return to the courtroom.

Carrizal is charged with directing the activities of a criminal street gang and two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity with underlying offenses of murder and aggravated assault.

The May 2015 shootout at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco left nine bikers dead and 20 others wounded.

The courtroom was almost full Thursday morning as attorneys in the case gave jury summations after Johnson read 57 pages of the court’s instructions.

Carrizal’s mother and father, two brothers and fiancee were seated on the front row. Waco Police Chief Ryan Holt, two assistant chiefs and a number of uniformed officers also were in the courtroom.

Among those at the courthouse waiting for the verdict Thursday night with Carrizal was Clifton “Dozer” Roberts, national Bandidos president.

Carrizal’s father and his brothers also are members of the Bandidos. His father was wounded at Twin Peaks and remains under indictment in the shootout. His uncle was president of the Dallas Bandidos chapter at the time of the Twin Peaks shootout and is also under indictment.

In closing statements, prosecutor Michael Jarrett said the state had proved the Bandidos are a criminal street gang involved in murders, drugs, weapons and extortion.

He also said the state had aptly documented the bad blood between the Cossacks and Bandidos.

“On May 17, 2015, our community here in Waco, Texas, was forever changed by the actions of some people who believe a patch, a piece of clothing, was more sacred than human life,” Jarrett told the jury.

Carrizal’s attorney, Casie Gotro, told the jury the state and its experts are using outdated intelligence that casts all Bandidos as members of a criminal street gang. The state also painted the biker culture and its members as either criminals or cowards, she said.

“Today, you are going to carve out some room for something in the middle, more something I think, I believe, we’re better for as a society,” she said.

Gotro said Carrizal and his Dallas chapter members are not criminals and did not come to Waco looking to pick a fight.

Prosecutors contend the shootout was the culmination of a turf war between the two groups and the Bandidos came to Twin Peaks to prove which group was dominant in Texas.

Gotro said Carrizal and his group were surrounded by Cossacks.

She said Carrizal had no chance to run, even if he wanted to. However, she said he stood his ground and stepped up to help defend his fellow Bandidos when they came under attack.

Jarrett said Carrizal’s claims of self-defense cannot be considered because as a member of a criminal street gang, Carrizal cannot lawfully carry a gun and, therefore, has no legal claim to self-defense.

Carrizal admitted he pulled a two-shot Derringer from his back pocket and shot at Cossack Jacob Rhyne, who he said was aiming a pistol at him.

Testimony showed Rhyne, who was killed, was shot by Waco police using .223-caliber rifles.

Gotro told the jury Waco police saved lives that day and saved Carrizal’s life twice.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna said Carrizal showed less courage than arrogance by leading the group to Waco to assert the group’s control over Texas biker groups.

Gotro said the Bandidos are the victims of police profiling and are hounded because they are different and out of the mainstream. That doesn’t make them criminals, she said.

special report
Veterans parade tradition
Trail ends for 'riderless horse' who graced Waco Veterans Day parades

Bill Johnson drew a mixture of puzzled stares and knowing nods when he brought up the rear of Waco’s downtown Veterans Day Parade about a decade ago, leading a spotted white and strawberry roan stallion.

The horse, an Appaloosa named Jack, was fitted with a McClellan saddle, its stirrups holding an empty pair of riding boots turned backward.

Those unfamiliar with the military tradition of the “riderless horse” honoring the war dead asked Johnson what he was doing, but he kept his eyes straight ahead as he marched down Austin Avenue.

“I walked that 13 blocks, and I had never experienced that much emotion,” said Johnson, a Robinson roof company owner and a supporter of veterans causes. “Men were saluting, talking to each other, saying, ‘Thank you for the riderless horse.’ Women were crying. Kids would say, ‘Why are you leading a horse?’ and their parents would teach them that it’s about respect, that they cared enough to give their lives.

“Then here comes this Marine in full dress who looked at me with laser eyes. He marched straight to me, stopped and looked at everything and said, ‘Good work.’ I guess I passed muster.”

Since then, Johnson’s riderless horse has become part of a tradition for Waco’s Veterans Day. But when he lines up near the front of the parade at 11 a.m. Friday, he won’t be leading his old faithful equine partner.

Just a few weeks ago, the stallion’s 27 years caught up with him. He took sick and died, and Johnson buried him on a hillside on his Robinson ranch.

On Friday, Johnson will be leading an Appaloosa mare named Honey, and he hopes she will bring the same honor to the fallen.

Still, he will feel the poignancy of a lost friend, one that had worked cattle and accompanied him to countless events for veterans.

“He was a great friend,” Johnson said. “We were close. He was gentle, trustworthy, and kids could be on him — not a kicker or a biter. … He had all the vim and vinegar of a young stud, but he could turn on a dime and give you a nickel’s worth of change. He could stick it in the ground.”

Johnson said that although he never served in the military he feels a duty to those who did. He said it was a veteran who originally asked him to enter Jack as a riderless horse in the parade, and he did so at the last minute.

Robert Carter, a McLennan County Veterans Association past commander and current parade organizer, said Johnson contributes something special to the parade.

“I think it’s awesome,” Carter said. “He also does a lot of things for veterans with events at his ranch.”

He said he has seen the parade grow over the last two decades from about 30 entrants to about 4,000.

“My understanding is that this is the largest Veterans Day parade in the nation,” said Carter, a retired Army sergeant who served in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm. “When you go down the parade route and see people waving flags and showing their patriotism, it makes you feel good.”

The tradition of the riderless horse in a funeral ceremony for a fallen military officer dates back to antiquity, when the horses of warriors were buried alongside them, according to the U.S. Army website.

A riderless horse walked in the funeral procession of President Abraham Lincoln, signifying Lincoln’s position as commander-in-chief. Lincoln’s boots were placed backward in the stirrups of the president’s horse. Nearly a century later, John F. Kennedy’s funeral would feature the same ceremony.

Johnson, 76, said he remembers watching that funeral on television and being touched by the gesture.

Johnson has been a horseman all his life. His father, a native of Gatesville who dealt in horses, took the family to Montana in 1952 and came home with a trailer and three Appaloosa horses.

Appaloosas, the spotted horses descended from the stock of Spanish explorers and the Nez Perce, became a signature part of the family business, and young Bill’s job was to help train them. He lost his front teeth and broke several bones in the process.

Johnson found 18-month-old Jack at an auction in Fort Worth a quarter-century ago.

“I saw him. I was impressed with him,” he said. “He was just a handsome horse, a beautiful horse, and he seemed to have a good temperament. But don’t doubt he was a stud. He was a stud to fare you well.”

Johnson trained him to be his main working horse.

“He was pretty spirited,” Johnson said. “We had ourselves a time. But I was younger then, too, and I had some spirit, too. He was never mean, just extremely dominant, but that’s what you want in a stud.”

He recalls trying to rope a dangerous bull that ended up dragging horse and rider across a road, but Jack finally got his traction and the two were able to attach the rope to a trailer.

“A lot of people say they’re training a horse, but pretty much you’re teaching each other,” he said.

On Thursday morning he ferried a visitor to the ranch house he maintains behind Johnson Roofing and showed off a herd of speckled horses, many of which are descended from Jack. A young stallion he calls Jack Jr. approached the fence line and nuzzled his hand as a cold rain fell.

“He had the most gorgeous babies, and now grandbabies,” Johnson said of his old stallion. “Every spring you go out and see all these babies. There’s nothing like it.”

special report
Local churches considering security in wake of shootings

Houses of worship are not immune to acts of violence, as the world witnessed in Sutherland Springs on Sunday, and some observers suggest they are among the most vulnerable of targets, with their acceptance of strangers and eternal open-door policy.

That in mind, and with the mass murder of 26 people attending morning services at the small church near San Antonio on Sunday, local congregations are taking a fresh look at their security plans and how to prevent death and destruction from invading what should serve as a safe haven.

Some local churches have sophisticated systems and layers of manpower to monitor activities during worship times, while others recruit volunteers or assign elders or ushers to walk the grounds and size up visitors. Two area church leaders said they feel comfortable knowing several congregants are packing heat, and the Waco Regional Baptist Association created a program to assist its member churches with security.

Nearly all said their ministries walk a fine line between protecting their flock “from wolves,” and making the world feel welcome.

“Our ushers are trained in what to do should they notice someone suspicious, and if I’m not available, they may ask them to leave or call the police,” said Father John Guzaldo, pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church. “If someone comes in and just starts shooting, as this man did in Sutherland Springs, I would hope some of our members would shoot back. We have several legally licensed to carry firearms, and I do not prohibit guns.”

Erin Conaway, pastor of Seventh & James Baptist Church near the Baylor University campus, said tragedies such as that which unfolded Sunday “further erodes our illusion that there are safe places in the world.”

“We have greeters at the entrance to the sanctuary and at each door, but they are there to welcome you, let you know you belong here,” Conaway said. “That’s part of why church shootings are so disturbing. Churches are a collection of sinners and broken people, and it goes against our mission to lock the doors from the inside and to not welcome a stranger.”

Conaway said church leaders discussed security on Monday, “but our first response was to cry out our prayers of agony for the people there, not only for the killed and wounded, but for the entire community. I hope churches all over do not react in ways detrimental to our purpose.”

Billy Edwards, pastor of Hewitt’s Brazos Meadows Baptist Church, said churches must follow the Bible’s exhortation “to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” as they weigh their options for dealing with threats.

“Are we vulnerable? Oh, absolutely. I think most of us are vulnerable,” Edwards said. “Sadly, that’s the world we live in right now. But we are revamping our security plan, and we’ll let the congregation know all the details, so we’re on the same page. I’m sure we’ll ask law enforcement to help.”

Joe Carbajal, pastor of Mighty Wind Worship Center, 11th Street and Washington Avenue, said his church’s “safe” program features volunteers licensed to carry firearms who patrol the premises; ushers trained to deal with attendees wearing bulky clothing or carrying backpacks; and greeters asked to report suspicious activity or individuals.

“We have had homeless folks come into our services, high or drunk, and we had to address those issues,” Carbajal said. “We have had people with mental health issues attend, and we learned to deal with that. But we hope that by taking precautionary measures, we can feel as safe as possible here in Waco, Texas, in the society we live in today.”

Tim Randolph, director of the Waco Regional Baptist Association, said the organization is increasing efforts to train its 93 member churches in a protocol called Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events.

“We will be offering training in the next few days to deacons, pastors and church safety teams, in part due to what just happened in Texas,” he said. “We sent out brochures two weeks ago, and we’re in conversation with First Baptist Waco to set a date for the project. Several churches already have consulted with us, and there is growing interest.”

Matt Cawthon, a former Department of Public Safety trooper who founded a cowboy church on State Highway 6, oversees the WRBA’s protection ministry and believes congregational leaders owe members a safe place to gather and worship, even if it means hiring armed security guards.

“I think a uniformed police presence would be best, but there is usually some resistance by members offended by such things,” Cawthon said. “But if we don’t protect our own people, who will? Mental illness is a problem. Terrorism is a problem. And we have to stop those problems before they start. We have to get beyond our being offended.”

Cawthon said the protection program goes includes offering advice on dealing with intruders bent on mayhem but also features strategies for evacuating buildings, avoiding electrical shocks and preventing or dealing with fires and explosions. He calls such preparation scriptural.

”We need to be able to worship the Lord and let our guard down,” he said. “But Nehemiah prayed to God and still posted a guard. If you think something can’t happen, you’re naive. It can happen anywhere.”

Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton said several places of worship around Greater Waco invite officers to attend services, “and most do not go anywhere unarmed.”

“We have held training events at local churches, and our community services division is happy to visit and offer advice on handling a situation involving an active shooter,” he added. “We have to watch out for each other. We’re of the mindset that if something does not look quite right, reach out to us and we’ll check it.” If there’s nothing to it, fantastic. We’d rather get a call than to not get a call and something tragic happens.”

What any given church can financially and practically do to prevent acts of violence will not necessarily stop everyone determined to inflict damage or death, said George W. Johnson Jr., presiding elder for the Northwest Conference, Paul Quinn Area of the AME Church.

“You can hire security if you are financially able, but some of the smaller rural congregations may not have the resources to do so,” Johnson said. “Some issues are simply beyond a church’s control. We are vulnerable as a society to individuals wanting to harm for whatever reason.”

The First Baptist Church of Waco released a statement in response to inquiries, saying in an email message, “We do have a church safety team that is responsible for monitoring our church grounds and facilities for a variety of safety issues. They also meet regularly to address, assess, and adjust their processes and procedures based on any relevant events that occur at the church, in our community, and across the nation.”

Said Leslie King, pastor of Waco’s First Presbyterian Church, “On one hand we are struck with awe and fear, and on the other hand we are told to fear not. How to do that wisely is always a challenge. For ourselves and others, it is not a matter of control but a matter of being responsive.”

Security has found itself on the agenda of larger churches for years, “but at smaller churches, like that in Sutherland Springs, I doubt it ever crossed their mind,” said Robert Creech, professor of pastoral leadership at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

Creech served as pastor or interim pastor at churches in Dallas and Houston before joining the Truett faculty, and at a larger congregation in the Dallas area “essentially had a bodyguard who followed me around.”

Still, he said, he is uneasy with the notion that churches should join “the culture of fear, the culture of force,” and proceed with installing metal detectors, hiring uniformed security officers and urging members to carry guns “as if they are preparing for a shootout at the OK Corral.”

“Being smart and alert to prevent bad things from happening makes sense, but we must consider the price of everything we do,” he said. “The more security-focused we become, the more we try to save our own lives, the more difficult it may become to live the life we’re called to.”

Richland Mall up for sale

Waco’s Richland Mall, the largest enclosed retail center between Dallas and Austin, is up for sale.

The approach of the California-based real estate company marketing the mall includes distribution of a 56-page document with annual sales, lease rates of tenants and other financial details.

Matthews Investment Services has tendered an “offer to qualified buyers” potentially interested in acquiring “a best-in-class, super-regional mall anchored by Dillard’s, Bealls, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods, H&M and JC Penney,” according to a post on LoopNet, a real estate listing site.

The mall, which opened in 1980 and has been remodeled twice, features 697,000 square feet spread over 77 acres. The Matthews document states that more than 70 percent of inline stores, which excludes those scattered along the mall’s center walkways, enjoy average sales of $500 a square foot. The property attracts an estimated 6 million visitors annually.

Sears and the two Dillard’s locations in the mall are mentioned in descriptions of what the property has to offer, but both anchors own the spaces they occupy. The balance of the center, home to more than 100 retail and dining locations, belongs to Tennessee-based CBL Properties.

CBL spokeswoman Stacey Keating said in an email response to inquiries that the mall is not for sale.

“While we look at various opportunities as part of our normal asset review process, we have no plans to sell this property,” Keating said in her message. “We are committed to the Waco market and see a lot of opportunity for future growth at Richland Mall.”

Asked about the online presence of the “offering memorandum” from Matthews Investment Services, and after viewing a forwarded copy of the promotional brochure, Keating repeated her denial.

No one with Matthews Investment Services had returned calls by late afternoon Thursday. Mall manager Kandace Menning reportedly was out of her office and not available for comment.

Gregg Glime, a commercial sales specialist in Waco, said it is not unusual for real estate professionals to work behind the scenes to market property when a public announcement of its availability “might prove to be detrimental or perceived negatively.”

Glime said Richland Mall “is by no means dying.”

The mall’s recent commitment from Dick’s Sporting Goods “will attract a significant number of people and could snowball into a couple of other tenants,” he said.

Bland Cromwell, a commercial specialist who worked to attract lessees for Richland before it opened in 1980, echoed Glime’s assessment of the mall’s health.

“As a young broker, I worked to secure tenants for the mall back in 1980. Everybody was so proud of the place,” Cromwell said. “It is dated, but Dick’s gives it a shot in the arm and is good for other tenants there.”

He said going public with plans to sell a retail property “can make some people nervous,” and landlords may try to sidestep the fallout by keeping their intentions under wraps as long as possible.

Brad Davis, a commercial real estate specialist at Coldwell Banker Jim Stewart Realtors, speculated that ownership may want to part with the mall before anchors JC Penney and Sears, both facing companywide financial challenges, are forced to shutter their Waco locations.

“It is just a matter of time in both cases,” Davis said. “Brick-and-mortar retail sites are losing ground all the time.”

Any interest in acquiring the mall could come from a real estate investment trust, a vehicle for selling real estate-backed securities, Davis said.

Pat Farrar, a commercial specialist with the Reid Peevey Company, said malls are suffering nationwide, “but Richland seems to have been resistant to that trend and has held up pretty well, though it has lost some stores to Central Texas Marketplace,” the sprawling retail-and-restaurant center at West Loop 340, Interstate 35 and Bagby Avenue.

“I have clients in secondary and tertiary markets where malls have a lot of vacancies and are really struggling,” Farrar said. “But from what I’ve seen, they’ve done a good job of keeping Richland pretty full and healthy.”

The financial snapshot included in the Matthews Investment Services marketing material states the mall at Waco Drive and State Highway 6 has an effective gross income of about $9.5 million annually, compared with operating expenses of $3.2 million.

Those figures include revenues generated by restaurants on outparcels near the Waco Drive entrance to the mall, Farrar said after viewing the marketing brochure online.

“Put it all together and you’re looking at a sales price of between $65 million and $75 million, considering it’s a Class B regional mall with an 8 to 9 percent capitalization rate,” Farrar said. “It would be a little riskier asset by lenders just because of factors that have been discussed, including the financial positions of Sears and JC Penney. But a 98 percent occupancy rate is strong, stronger than most retail centers.”

The promotional material does not include an asking price. It does discuss Waco’s strategic location between Austin and Dallas, and the qualities of those metropolitan areas. It says of Waco: “The city’s economy has seen consistent positive growth for multiple years.”

The area in a 10-mile radius of the mall includes more than 200,000 people and enjoys a median household income of $62,000, according to the material.

It also mentions the arrival of the new Dick’s Sporting Goods store in spring of 2018, its annual lease rate growing from $270,000 in years one through five, eventually escalating to $360,000 if options are exercised in the later years of a lease agreement.

West voters choose 3 council members, get 2

West voters elected three city council members this week, as their ballots instructed. But there was a problem.

There were only two openings on the city council.

West Mayor Tommy Muska said the city used last year’s ballot as a template and failed to make corrections before sending the document to the county, which ran the election.

“That’s only the second mistake I’ve ever made,” Muska said. “The first mistake was thinking I don’t make any.”

West residents saw a ballot that allowed for them to vote for three of the six people vying for a spot on the city council. The three candidates with the most votes were to have won the election.

Candidate Joe Pustejovsky came in third, but there is no seat for him to fill.

Incumbents David Pratka and Karla Hoelscher Dulock came in first and second, respectively, to hold on to their seats, which were the only two open.

With 144 votes, Pustejovsky was just 11 votes shy of Dulock’s 155 votes and 17 votes shy of Pratka’s 161 votes.

Pustejovsky came in well ahead of Gary Greener’s and Casey Kelley’s 34 votes each and Kenneth Bagley’s 18 votes.

Muska, who ran unopposed to remain mayor, received 196 votes.

Muska said the ballot error “got by me” and was a glitch on the city’s part. He said he reached out to Pustejovsky to inform him of the error.

“It’s in his court if he wants to do anything, but he stated he’s fine,” Muska said.

Challenge possible

Per the Texas Election Code, Pustejovsky could challenge the election.

He declined comment Thursday.

Each of the six candidates has 30 days after the city canvases the vote to lodge an official election contest with a McLennan County district court, Texas Secretary of State spokesman Sam Taylor said. A judge would then determine if a new election is needed, Taylor said.

Canvass election

McLennan County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said each government entity that held an election Tuesday will canvass their election next week, ahead of the Nov. 20 deadline.

Muska said he thinks confusion caused by the city’s error was limited, because many voters only chose two candidates.

Of the 768 West voters, 222 did not select three city council candidates. Election reports do not detail whether the 222 voters selected one council candidate, two council candidates or only voted on statewide constitutional amendments.

West’s next city council election, in November 2018, will include three openings. The terms for council members Brian Muska and Cheryl Marak and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek will be ending.