Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman said Friday that three Waco officers fired a total of 12 shots during the May 17 Twin Peaks shootout that killed nine people and injured 18, landing 177 suspects in jail.
Stroman said 12 shell casings were fired from police rifles and found at the scene. No other law enforcement officers from other agencies fired their weapons, he said.
So far, a total of 44 casings have been recovered, but Stroman said that total doesn’t include any casings that remained inside revolvers that were fired. All other shells found at the scene weren’t from law enforcement weapons, he said.
Stroman announced the development in a press conference Friday, adding that the department intends to update the public on the investigation every week, if possible.
He also disputed rumors that Waco police had officers assigned to the area in a sniper capacity and said, “We did not fire indiscriminately into the crowd.”
A Waco Police Department press release reports that the three officers fired .223-caliber rifles that are capable of fully automatic fire, but were only used in semi-automatic mode during the Twin Peaks shootout. The release says there was no fully automatic fire from any officers on the scene, contrary to some statements made by bikers after they were released from jail.
All Waco police officers were inside their vehicles at the time the shooting started at Twin Peaks, the release says. The officers involved have been assigned administrative duties pending the outcome of the investigation.
The release also states the number of weapons discovered at the crime scene has increased to 475 “and may continue to increase.” The list includes 151 firearms, 12 of which were long guns. Other weapons include knives, brass knuckles, batons, tomahawks, weighted weapons, a hatchet, stun guns, bats, clubs, a machete, a pipe, an ax, pepper spray and a chain.
“Some were found using metal detectors as they were buried beneath the grass in the dirt,” the release said.
Stroman said all involved firearms were sent to the ATF for analysis and that the ATF is leading the ballistics element of the investigation. He added that videos of the incident have been transferred to FBI officials for analysis, while all autopsy and toxicology investigation is being handled by the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas. Stroman said those are the largest elements of the investigation to be handled largely by other organizations.
Tom Vinger, a Department of Public Safety spokesman, said Texas Rangers assisted that day with “documenting and securing the crime scene, conducting interviews, and processing vehicles” and are helping in any other ways they are needed moving forward.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office also continue to assist police, Stroman said.
There’s also a Waco police commander specifically assigned over two criminal investigation units investigating the cases, including the special crimes division and the forfeiture and enforcement division. Both units have been assigned additional officers to help handle the workload.
Stroman said a total of 21 officers and supervisors are working on the Twin Peaks case.
Stroman put the number of pieces of evidence at 1,000, including cellphones, clothing items and weapons.
State District Judge Matt Johnson said that he issued search warrants Friday allowing officials to evaluate the contents of the seized cellphones, in addition to search warrants already issued and returned on the vehicles in the parking lot and the clothing of those arrested.
There were 239 people detained at the crime scene the day of the shootout, and Stroman said 62 people were released from Twin Peaks or from the Waco Convention Center without being charged.
Burton George Bergman, 48, of Dallas, said he is frustrated to hear that such a large number were released when he believes he was arrested for his patch alone. Bergman, who is affiliated with the Desgraciados Motorcycle Club, believes the 62 other people who were there that day were released on what he considers a minor distinction: club affiliation.
“They released all the Boozefighters, all the military clubs, they released all the religious clubs, they just pick and choose what clubs to release,” he said.
He added, “I didn’t have anything to do with anything.”
Bergman, a truck driver, said he parked his cycle and was walking up to the restaurant when the events unfolded that day.
Bergman was released this week on an $80,000 bond, and he said he hid under a car near Don Carlos when the shooting broke out.
He said he didn’t witness enough of the shooting to corroborate or deny the police account of rounds fired by Waco officers, since he was hiding and on the phone with his wife, telling her he loved her.
His main complaint, he says, is that he feels police “led us right into a beehive.”
“Right when we pulled in, we saw officers sitting in patrol cars,” he said. “I really feel like I was led into an ambush.”
Bergman said he believes there must have been some way police could have warned him and other cyclists before the violence broke out.
“Of course, we didn’t know anything until it was too late,” he said. “By the time we pulled in and I saw what we were encountering, I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go backward.”
He continued, “All you could do was jump off your bike and run for cover.”
A total of 130 motorcycles and 91 other vehicles were impounded from the scene that day, Stroman said, a number slightly above the original estimate. Of those, 52 motorcycles and 47 vehicles have been released to the owners, while 12 of the motorcycles and 3 of the other vehicles were released to the lienholders to be repossessed.
Stroman said he did not know how many, if any, vehicles would be seized and put up for auction.
Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said Wednesday that the logistics behind towing, storing, security and evidence collection for all of the vehicles required significant effort and was unusual for the department, which may have delayed the returns.
“You had a lot of wreckers and manpower that went into doing that,” Swanton said. “A lot of those have been released back to rightful owners.”
Attorney Clinton Broden, who represents Matthew Clendennen, a member of the Scimitars Motorcycle Club who was arrested May 17, said he called the police department and was able to retrieve his vehicle last week.
Initially, he said he had no luck, but the bike was released to a credit union that had a lien on the bike the next day, Broden said.
The credit union gave the motorcycle back to Clendennen, he said. He said he isn’t sure why more motorcycles haven’t been released.
“I called, so maybe they are just waiting for more people from jail to be released,” Clendennen said. “But I’m actually going to say something nice about the Waco police: Give them credit where credit is due. They were very cooperative in helping us get the motorcycle back.”
Burton Bergman’s wife, Judy, said she had been working to retrieve the motorcycle that belongs to her husband since “day one” and had no luck until she was told Wednesday that she could pick it up.
Bergman said she was still being charged $61 to get the motorcycle back.
“None of this seems fair, to be honest,” she said, adding that the total money for bond, lost earnings while her husband was in jail, attorney’s fees and money used to contact him has been “ridiculous.”
Staff writer Tommy Witherspoon contributed to this report.