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A McLennan County sheriff’s deputy stands guard near a group of bikers in the parking lot of Twin Peaks Restaurant just after a deadly shootout between rival biker gangs Sunday, May 17. Authorities arrested about 170 suspects on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity.

Staff photo— Rod Aydelotte

Given Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s prompt vow to help cover costs associated with the chaotic and deadly May 17 shootout at Waco’s Twin Peaks restaurant, Wacoans have no reason to doubt his office will follow through on covering at least some expenses associated with everything from feeding and housing inmates to paying law enforcement officers’ overtime.

That said, Wacoans who pretend to be concerned about government expense should reflect deeply on their conservative principles, assuming they actually have them. Should state taxpayers legitimately help bear the cost, say, of jailing 177 bikers for weeks on million-dollar bonds when something very obviously failed somewhere in the local criminal justice system in terms of due process? How about the filing of one-size-fits-all charges against the 177?

Indeed, the judicial logjam in the wake of the arrests finally prompted the intervention of Billy Ray Stubblefield, presiding judge of the Third Administrative Judicial Region, whose decision to expedite bond-reduction hearings and other matters involving bikers’ cases offered a sobering perspective of how all this looks beyond Waco.

On the other hand, state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, involved in efforts to press the state to cover some of the costs, offers convincing rationale for doing so. As he notes, many bikers involved in the melee hailed from elsewhere. The fight supposedly wasn’t caused by anything Waco or McLennan County did. That would justify certain expenses, including the power plant lights reportedly set up in the Twin Peaks parking lot as the investigation continued.

Trib staff writer Cassie L. Smith reports that the city of Waco is compiling information to seek a state justice grant of anywhere from $300,000 to $350,000, while the county hopes to garner a quarter of a million dollars or more from the governor’s County Essential Services Program. Local officials have indicated these grants won’t cover all expenses incurred from the shootout.

Nor should they, at least not at this point. District Attorney Abel Reyna, Waco police and others have shown little public accountability for their actions, some of which have garnered mounting criticism not just from numerous biker apologists but discriminating civil rights groups, former prosecutors, legal scholars and news media both statewide and nationwide.

Lack of transparency about legitimate questions involving law enforcement protocol and due process hardly justifies the full faith of the public, excepting those who blindly trust everything that elected and appointed officials do.