If the mysteriously leaked Twin Peaks restaurant video of bikers reacting to an eruption of parking-lot violence resonates dramatically, it’s because we’re mindful of basic facts in the May 17 shootout: nine dead, 177 jailed, many arrested because of state law that, yes, allows certain arrests based on criminal gang tattoos and insignia.
And if footage of bikers scrambling behind tables and chairs, some drawing weapons, one firing a gun, resonates, it’s because of vivid coverage such as Trib reporting drawn from affidavits issued when some bikers’ vehicles were subsequently seized. The evidence suggests a deadly ambush involving rival motorcycle gangs. But is this the truth?
Restaurant video aired by CNN last week lacks context. It lacks balanced perspective. The footage, which shows panic and confusion aplenty on the Twin Peaks restaurant patio and inside, notably doesn’t tell us what’s actually happening in the parking lot involving Bandidos and Cossacks or, for that matter, local law enforcement.
And what transpired in the parking lot — whether you believe violence broke out because one biker deliberately or unwittingly rode over another’s foot or that police slaughtered defenseless bikers (as some biker apologists maintain) — is critical to resolving the stigma about criminal justice that has now settled over Waco.
Wherever CNN ultimately got the video and other Waco police materials — prosecutors and police say it did not come from them — it’s another element in the sustained drip-drip-drip of police evidence. We can already hear some lambasting it as heavily edited and others drawing more from it than it actually conveys.
For anyone trying to make sense of all this, this video footage was first cited in Associated Press reports just days after the shooting deaths at Twin Peaks. It is not, however, the footage cited in the preliminary examining trials. The latter are reportedly drawn from police-cruiser dash-camera views of the parking-lot battlefield.
Judging from law enforcement testimony in examining trials, the latter will tell us who shot first, who shot second, who shot whom how many times and whether this was a police massacre or a fight police were merely trying to contain given a restaurant nearby full of Sunday diners. One thing’s sure: the video issued so far confirms bikers were armed to the teeth, just as police said before they cited a gag order to shut down further information. Then again, some bikers had the right to carry.
The truth will out, the adage says. Certainly grand jurors (now free of the police officer tapped to head the last group) can be expected to give scrutiny to prosecutors’ cases, for better and worse. And trial jurors — drawn from the people — will weigh evidence with proper deliberation and skepticism. And in the final analysis, we will know not only a lot more about the actions of Bandidos and Cossacks that spring day but the integrity with which our criminal justice system has conducted itself.