Lettie Jones, a former cook at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, knew something was going on when she turned around from her duties and she was alone in the kitchen.
She rushed to a patio window in time to hear a single burst of gunfire that she mistook for a firecracker before a flurry of shots shattered the otherwise calm Sunday afternoon of May 17, 2015.
Jones was the first prosecution witness Wednesday in the trial of Jacob Carrizal, the first to stand trial of the 154 bikers indicted in the Twin Peaks shootout that left nine dead and dozens injured.
Carrizal is on trial in Waco’s 54th State District Court on charges of directing the activities of a criminal street gang and two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity. Security has been intensified dramatically for the trial.
Jones said she had been a cook at Twin Peaks for about two months and was accustomed to seeing biker groups gather at the restaurant.
She said at least 50 Cossacks wearing their black and gold colors were already on the patio when she arrived at 11 a.m. She said she had not seen that many gathered there before, adding she thought it was a bit unusual but knew there was supposed to be a biker event there that day.
When she discovered she was alone in the kitchen, she went out to ask someone what was happening, Jones said. She was told there was a fight outside and went to the patio to investigate.
“There were so many bikers on the patio, all I could see was yellow,” Jones said.
She said she heard a loud rumbling of motorcycles and then heard what she described as a “pop.” That single shot was followed by a lot of shots, and she saw Cossacks leaping over the patio railing to rush toward the skirmish, she said.
Jones said she saw two bikers run by the patio window with guns drawn, firing toward bikers in the parking lot.
She said she was scared and ran to the kitchen, where managers were ushering Twin Peaks staff members into freezers for safety. They stayed in the freezers for about 20 minutes before Waco police escorted them out into the parking lot.
Becoming emotional, Jones described seeing slain bikers, injured ones and a cache of weapons and ammunition lying on the parking lot.
The horrifying incident caused Jones to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, requiring that she see a counselor on a regular basis, she said. It has prevented her from working.
Jones said she did not see Carrizal at the scene that day.
In opening statements Wednesday afternoon, McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna told jurors the Twin Peaks incident was the “crescendo of a conflict” that had been brewing between the Bandidos and Cossacks for years.
Reyna said the trial will take the jury to a “subculture” known as “1 percenters,” members of criminal street gangs who claim their territories and retaliate against those who don’t pay them proper respect.
“The evidence will show 1 percenters have no regard for the laws of society, no regard for laws we follow every day, but rather exists on its own code of conduct. They exist and do their own thing,” Reyna said.
Reyna said the Cossacks refused to bow down to the Bandidos, the largest motorcycle group in Texas, and refused to ask permission to exist as a group.
“You will learn about those territories, those patches and the length that these 1 percenters will go to rectify any disrespect for either that patch, a brother member or failure to respect the territory that they claim as their own,” Reyna said.
He said the Cossacks showed the ultimate act of betrayal by wearing Texas “rockers” on their vests without permission from the Bandidos.
“The evidence will show that this act of betrayal had to be dealt with,” Reyna said.
At the time, Carrizal was vice president of the Bandidos Dallas chapter but has since been elected president.
Reyna said evidence will show that Carrizal was instrumental in rallying his “brothers” and making plans for the Bandidos to confront the Cossacks at the Waco meeting of the Coalition of Clubs and Independents, an affiliation of motorcycle groups.
Casie Gotro, Carrizal’s attorney, waived her opening statements, reserving her right to address the jury at the beginning of the defense’s case.
Prosecutors asked Judge Matt Johnson to allow their law enforcement expert witnesses to remain in the courtroom during prosecution testimony. However, Gotro objected, challenging whether they were qualified to be called experts and whether it was appropriate for them to remain in the courtroom while other officers testified.
Johnson sent the jury home, then conducted an hourlong hearing in which Darren Kozlowski, an ATF agent with 30 years of experience, testified that he has infiltrated three “outlaw motorcycle gangs” since 1999.
As Kozlowski was being sworn in, Reyna asked that a TV pool camera not show his face because of his undercover work. However, the camera already had streamed live footage of the agent before the judge could instruct the TV crew not to show him on camera.
Kozlowski described the general characteristics that make up an outlaw motorcycle gang but said he has no direct experience with members of the Bandidos in Texas. He said he infiltrated the Vagos, the Mongols and the Warlocks as an undercover officer.
After the hearing, over Gotro’s renewed objections, Johnson said he will allow the agent’s testimony but require that he alter his PowerPoint presentation to delete a history of 1 percenters and information about how gangs pool their money for a legal fund that is available when they get into trouble.
Earlier Wednesday, prosecutors and Gotro completed the jury-selection process, which they started Tuesday. The jury includes 11 men and three women, with two serving as alternates.
Prosecution testimony will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.