Editor’s note: Corrected information in story
Five more bikers arrested last year after the Twin Peaks shootout in Waco filed civil rights lawsuits Wednesday, alleging they were arrested with no proof of wrongdoing.
Ester Weaver, Walter Weaver, Sandra Lynch, Michael Lynch and Julie Perkins join 17 other bikers who have filed lawsuits in an Austin federal court against McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, former Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, Waco police Detective Manuel Chavez and an unnamed state trooper.
Dallas attorney Don Tittle represents 20 of the plaintiffs and said 13 of the 20 have not been indicted, including the five most recent plaintiffs.
Stroman consulted with Reyna and his top assistants on the decision to arrest 177 bikers after the May 17, 2015, shootout that left nine dead and two dozen injured or wounded. Chavez obtained affidavits from a judge to make the arrests.
Two bikers failed recently in efforts to disqualify Reyna from overseeing the prosecution of the biker cases.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, of Austin, who is presiding over the civil litigation, has put the civil lawsuits on hold until after the criminal cases are disposed of.
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.
‘Do the right thing’
“The district attorney (Reyna) recently claimed that his decision not to indict some of those arrested is proof that he’s trying to ‘do the right thing,’ ” Tittle said Wednesday. “I know that for these individuals, and many others, his words ring hollow. Almost 18 months after their arrests, my clients are still waiting for their names to be cleared, hardly what you’d expect from someone interested in ‘doing the right thing.’ ”
Reyna did not return a phone message Wednesday.
According to the suit, the Weavers live in Bell County and have 23 grandchildren. Ester Weaver was a member of the Queens of Sheeba Motorcycle Club, “an all-female group that socializes on weekends and is known for their charitable work,” the suit states.
Her husband, Walter, an Army veteran and an Army civilian employee, was not a member of any motorcycle club, according to the suit. The Weavers rode with friends to Waco the day of the shootout to attend a meeting of the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents at Twin Peaks, the suit alleges.
Ester Weaver had just arrived at Twin Peaks, parked her motorcycle, lit a cigarette and began to walk toward her husband, who came earlier with friends, when she heard gunshots and took cover, according to the suit. Her husband, who was setting up a display stand when he heard the shots, also ran away and took cover, the suit alleges, adding that neither did anything to break the law.
Sandra and Michael Lynch live in McLennan County and have six children and 19 grandchildren. The suit describes Sandra Lynch as “an advocate for motorcyclist rights” and says she is a member of the Los Pirados Motorcycle Club.
The suit calls the Los Pirados group a “mom and pop” club and says it is a family-oriented, independent group with no affiliation to any other club.
Sandra Lynch also came to attend the meeting, had set up a booth and helped park motorcycles. When the shots rang out, she took cover, according to the suit.
“Mrs. Lynch’s actions were consistent with what 99 percent of the population would do in the same or similar situation. She immediately took cover to avoid being struck,” the lawsuit states.
Julie Perkins, a resident of Burleson County, is an Army veteran and worked as a contractor overseas during Operation Desert Storm. She is a member of the Distorted Motorcycle Club and does volunteer work with her group that benefits local charities, the lawsuit states.
Like the others, she rode to Waco with friends to attend the meeting and ran for cover when the shooting started, according to the suit.
“Plaintiff Julie Perkins was engaged in completely lawful conduct at all times relevant to the Twin Peaks incident,” the suit alleges.
Sparks ruled in August that the civil rights lawsuits will remain in Austin, denying the defendants’ motions to move the cases to Waco’s federal court.
In his ruling to stay the civil proceedings, Sparks noted that “the plaintiff’s alleged claims and criminal charge are so closely interrelated that resolving the civil claims may impugn any conviction. . . . Most importantly, plaintiff’s civil claims challenge the legality of his arrest, which may directly implicate or invalidate any conviction in his criminal case.”