Twin Peaks shootout

Costs of the Twin Peaks biker cases are continuing to mount, even as the trials are put on hold for a federal case against national leaders of one of the groups involved in the deadly melee.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson, file

Eleven more bikers arrested but not indicted after the 2015 Twin Peaks shootout filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, alleging they were arrested without cause and their “constitutional rights have been trampled on.”

Daryle Walker, of Franklin County, Ohio; Michael Woods, of Bell County; Don Fowler, of Ellis County; David Cepeda, of Bexar County; Kevin Rash, of McLennan County; Richard Kreder, of Navarro County; Greg Corrales, of Bexar County; Bobby Joe Samford, of Milam County; Jimmy Spencer Jr., of Montgomery County; Craig Rodahl, of McLennan County; and Arley Harris III, of Bosque County, are the latest bikers to allege in a lawsuit filed in an Austin federal court that their civil rights were violated by their unlawful arrests and improper incarceration under $1 million bonds each.

The 55-page lawsuit, filed on the bikers’ behalf by Dallas attorney Don Tittle, names as defendants former Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, Waco police Detective Manuel Chavez, McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, the city of Waco, McLennan County and unnamed government employees involved in the arrests identified only as John Does.

Unspecified damages

Unlike another lawsuit filed last week on behalf of Brenham resident Morgan English, who is seeking $350 million in damages after her arrest at Twin Peaks, the latest lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

“None of these (11) individuals have been indicted,” the lawsuit states. “In fact, despite the passage of 22 months since the date of the incident, none of their cases have even been presented to a grand jury.

“Despite the fact that no evidence whatsoever indicates that any of them were engaged in anything other than completely lawful conduct, defendants Stroman, Reyna and Chavez recently stated in legal pleadings filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas that ‘these individuals have not been absolved of criminal wrongdoing’ and remain very much under investigation. This suit seeks to correct the miscarriage of justice and assault on the United States Constitution perpetrated by these defendants.”

Reyna did not return a phone message left at his office Tuesday.

Reyna conferred with Stroman by telephone and with Stroman’s top assistants at the scene before the decision was made to arrest 177 bikers after the May 17, 2015, shootout that left nine bikers dead and more than 20 injured.

Chavez signed off on identical affidavits to obtain arrest warrants for the bikers.

McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said Tuesday he cannot comment on pending litigation.

Waco City Attorney Jennifer Richie also said she would not comment on pending litigation.

“There are pending criminal matters and civil lawsuits, and the city of Waco chooses to litigate these matters in the courts,” Richie said.

Tittle now has filed suits on behalf of 31 bikers arrested in the Twin Peaks incident. Of those 31, seven have been indicted. The rest have not. With the statute of limitations to file lawsuits in the case expiring May 17, Tittle said he expects to file “many more suits” in coming weeks.

“Every time I hear Abel Reyna open his mouth, I become more and more motivated to do everything within my power to hold him and the other defendants accountable for this gross miscarriage of justice.” Tittle said Tuesday.

No biker has gone to trial, and 155 remain under indictment on first-degree felony engaging in organized criminal activity charges. Some of the bikers indicted were not arrested the day of the shootout.

An effort to disqualify Reyna from overseeing the prosecution of the biker cases remains pending in Waco’s 10th Court of Appeals.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, of Austin, who is presiding over the civil litigation, lifted a stay last month that would have put the civil lawsuits on hold until after the criminal cases are disposed of. Sparks placed the stay last year, shortly after the first suits were filed.

The lawsuit alleges that authorities relied on “identical, fill-in-the-blank” arrest affidavits that did not allege specific facts against the plaintiffs “that would in any way establish probable cause” for their arrests.

Reyna and police officials decided to arrest the bikers en masse “based entirely on their presence at Twin Peaks, the motorcycle club that defendants presumed an individual was associated with and/or the clothing they were wearing” at the time of the incident, the suit alleges.

Conspiracy theory

“Rather than investigating the incident and relying on actual facts to establish probable cause, defendants theorized that a conspiracy of epic proportion between dozens of people had taken place, and willfully ignored the total absence of facts to support their ‘theory,’ ” according to the suit.

The lawsuit says that one of the plaintiffs, Daryle Walker, is the father of four sons and serves as a veteran services officer for Lincoln County, Ohio. He served in the Army for more than 20 years as a military policeman and criminal investigator.

Walker was deployed twice to Afghanistan and was awarded two Bronze Stars while in the Army, the suit says. He was in Waco with friends to attend a meeting of the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents and was smoking a cigar on the back side of the restaurant when he heard gunshots. He immediately took cover and “was engaged in completely lawful conduct” while at Twin Peaks, the suit alleges.

Woods also served in the Army for more than 20 years and works at Fort Hood for a federal contractor, according to the suit.

Fowler was a pediatric nurse at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children for almost 25 years at the time of his arrest. Cepeda, according to the suit, holds a bachelor’s degree in business and information systems from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Rash, a Navy veteran, has worked many years in the pest control industry, while Samford is a lifelong electrician and Spencer lost his construction job and was evicted after his mugshot appeared with others arrested that day, the suit says.

Rodahl helped escort Twin Peaks staff members inside a walk-in cooler while taking cover from the gunfire, while Harris was a China Spring volunteer firefighter.

Staff writer at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering courts and criminal justice. Follow me on Twitter @TSpoonFeed.

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