A Waco police sergeant testified Tuesday that law enforcement and emergency personnel were overwhelmed in the aftermath of the 2015 Twin Peaks shootout, saying the parking lot was awash in bodies, blood, bikes and weapons.
“It looked like somebody took Cabela’s and turned it on end and shook it into the parking lot,” Sgt. Stephen Drews said. “There were so many knives, guns, clubs, you name it.”
Drews described the bloody, chaotic scene during fourth-day testimony in the trial of Jacob Carrizal, president of the Dallas Bandidos chapter.
Carrizal, 35, a Dallas railroad company worker, is charged in Waco’s 54th State District Court with directing the operations of a criminal street gang and two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity in the shootout that left nine dead and more than a dozen injured.
Drews said Waco police were aware of the bad blood between the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle groups and ongoing violent outbreaks between them around the state when police learned of a meeting of a biker coalition planned for May 17, 2015, at Twin Peaks.
He said police officials met with the owner of Twin Peaks to try to dissuade him from hosting the event when investigators learned that the Cossacks, who were not members of the coalition, and Bandidos both planned to show up for the Sunday afternoon meeting.
Police officials also contacted Cossacks President John Wilson at his motorcycle shop and told him of their concerns about the two groups appearing at the same place, the sergeant said.
Drews told jurors Waco police planned for the event with assurances from the Cossacks, and indirectly from the Bandidos, that both sides considered it foolish to have a violent confrontation in a busy shopping center on a Sunday afternoon.
So Waco police planned to have a strong, visible presence at the scene to act as a deterrent for overt violent acts, but were not expecting and were unprepared for what happened that day, Drews said.
Throughout the day, Carrizal’s attorney, Casie Gotro, continued to push the crux of her defense before the jury, including her assertions that the Bandidos are not a criminal street gang, they have changed under Carrizal’s leadership, they were set up and ambushed by the Cossacks and they only acted in self-defense when they were attacked.
Prosecutors have said Carrizal helped orchestrate the Bandidos’ trip to Waco that day with the intent of teaching the Cossacks some respect and proving the Bandidos are the dominant motorcycle group in Texas.
A motorcycle gang expert from Colorado testified Tuesday that Carrizal directed Bandidos who were not working to come to Waco, to leave their women at home and to bring their guns with them.
Drews said police were stunned by the shootout, saying most groups would not have committed such overt acts in the face of such obvious police presence.
“Our main focus was to ensure the safety of the public in the area and those attending the meeting,” Drews said.
Drews, sergeant over the Waco police SWAT unit, said he and his men arrived at Twin Peaks that day about 11:30, expecting the meeting to start about 1 p.m. Cossacks already were filling the patio area and spilling over into the parking lot when officers arrived, Drews said.
Police initially discussed plans to have undercover officers inside Twin Peaks during the meeting, but that plan was nixed, Drews said.
He instructed his officers not to get “bogged down” with minor arguments or infractions, such as bikers burning off in the parking lot. He said a group of bikers wearing Bandidos colors were gathered in the back corner of the Twin Peaks parking lot, but nothing happened between the groups until a column of Bandidos, led by Carrizal, rode into the parking lot.
When the Bandidos rode in, members of their support groups who were in the back of the lot started “collapsing” into an area in front of the restaurant behind them, he said.
He heard an officer report by radio that there was a lot of tension there and a fight might break out. Drews said he heard the first shot seconds later, followed by a lengthy barrage of gunfire.
He said he and other officers paired up and started making their way toward the gunfire, using vehicles as cover. With car windows being shot out around them, the officers continued advancing.
Drews said even before the gunfire stopped, he noticed guns, knives, clubs and other weapons being thrown to the ground while bikers carrying pistols in their hands ran away from the fray.
Drews said he tried to figure out where the remaining gunfire was coming from and learned some bikers were lying behind their motorcycles, using them as cover as they continued firing.
He saw bikers who were dead, others who were dying, and gave commands for those still in the area to drop their guns and get on the ground.
After the area was secure, Drews said police separated the groups and seated them in the parking lot and started photographing them. However, officers at the scene realized the task there was too daunting because of the number of bikers there, he said.
In other state testimony Tuesday, Chris Schaefer, of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, testified about text messages he reviewed between Carrizal and other Bandidos sent in the months leading up to the shootout.
Schaefer said It is clear from the text messages that the Bandidos were keeping tabs on the Cossacks’ movements, referring to the rival group as “Cocksacks” in their messages.
The night before Twin Peaks, after earlier urging Bandidos to come to Waco that day and bring their “tools,” or weapons, Carrizal sent the message: “5/17 Bro!!” Schaefer said the message reads like a Bandidos battle cry and that Carrizal was trying to pump up membership to come to Waco and take care of business.
Prosecutors also called Carrizal’s younger brother, Zach Carrizal, to the stand Tuesday. He is president of the Bandidos chapter in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and said his younger brother and father also are Bandidos in Dallas.
Zach Carrizal contradicted many of the characteristics, customs and rules attributed to the Bandidos and other biker groups by the state’s designated criminal street gang experts who testified last week.
Prosecution testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.