A Waco police SWAT officer and trained sharp-shooter testified Monday that he shot four bikers during the 2015 battle between rival groups at Twin Peaks and said he saved lives that day by his actions.
Heath Jackson told jurors in the trial of Bandidos Dallas chapter president Jacob Carrizal that he shot the bikers to end threats to other bikers, those eating and shopping nearby and to his fellow officers.
Jackson and fellow Waco police officers Ben Rush and Sam Key testified Monday, the ninth day of testimony in Carrizal’s trial in Waco’s 54th State District Court.
Carrizal, 35, is charged with directing the activities of a criminal street gang, one count of engaging in organized criminal activity with the underlying offense of murder and a second count of engaging in organized criminal activity with the underlying offense of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
As Jackson testified, prosecutors played video from the dash cam of the police vehicle he and officer Michael Bucher were in that day. He said police planned to display a visible presence at Twin Peaks, hoping to serve as a deterrent to any potential violence between the warring Bandidos and Cossacks.
Jackson said he was not there in his capacity as a SWAT sniper. However, after the violence erupted, he grabbed his rifle, chambered a round and went to work as a “counter-sniper” in an effort to eliminate threats and save lives.
“You know you saved innocent lives that day, don’t you?” Carrizal’s attorney, Casie Gotro, asked Jackson.
“I like to think so, ma’am,” Jackson said.
Gotro has tried to paint the defense scenario that the Cossacks crashed a meeting they were not invited to, set a trap for the Bandidos and ambushed them as they rode up, not giving them a chance to get off their motorcycles.
Jackson testified he and Bucher circled the Central Texas Marketplace parking lot a couple of times before parking at the corner of the Don Carlos Mexican Restaurant lot to get a better view once Carrizal and about 20 other Bandidos rode into the Twin Peaks parking lot. He said their vehicle was 50 to 60 yards from the patio area, where the fighting started.
Officers radioed that tension was increasing around the Twin Peaks patio area and Jackson said he saw someone throw a punch, followed seconds later by gunshots.
Jackson and Bucher opened the doors to grab their rifles. Before Jackson could get out, a bullet hit the door just above the window, he said.
He moved to the rear of the vehicle, which provided him more cover but restricted his view because he left the door open, he said.
Jackson saw a man with a gun walking down the center of the skirmish, which Jackson thought was odd given the chaotic scene around him, he said.
He said he got the man in his rifle sights just as he pointed the gun at a man on the ground. Jackson said he fired and “ended the threat.”
Jackson said Bucher pointed out two men under the Twin Peaks banner near the patio who were lying on the ground using bikes as cover. The one on the right was aiming his pistol at Jackson and Bucher, and Jackson fired again. The man reacted like he got hit but kept aiming, so Jackson fired again. The man dropped the gun, he said, but it was unclear if he killed him.
The man lying beside him was aiming his gun at someone to his right, Jackson said. The officer fired one shot, “ending the threat,” he said.
Under questioning from District Attorney Abel Reyna, Jackson talked about ballistics reports that showed he also engaged a fourth biker. As the gunfire was subsiding, a biker came off the patio area, firing in the officers’ direction. Jackson fired and the man went down, although Jackson said he does not remember firing at him.
Jackson said the fact that he doesn’t remember is likely the brain’s coping mechanism for dealing with trauma.
After the shooting stopped, Jackson and other officers went about the monumental task of securing the area, collecting hundreds of weapons from bikers and identifying suspects.
Some of the wounded Bandidos could be seen on the video helping their wounded from the scene. Some carried those injured and helped others to a spot on the ground just in front of Jackson’s vehicle.
As this portion of the video was being played, Carrizal’s mother, Sonia, who has been sitting on the front row of the courtroom throughout the trial, began to sob quietly. She was comforted by Carrizal’s brother, Zach.
Sonia Carrizal said after the trial recessed Monday evening that she became emotional because she saw her husband and Carrizal’s father, Christopher Julian Carrizal, being helped on the video after he was shot in the right shoulder.
In other testimony, Rush, also a member of the SWAT team, described the aftermath of the shootout like a scene from a movie.
“It was like a horror movie, with bodies lying around and so much blood everywhere and so many weapons,” he said.
At one point, Rush became emotional on the stand, remembering how his worried family tried to get in touch with him following the gun battle.
“I always try to play out every scenario in my head, but it wasn’t supposed to go like this,” Rush said. “There was no pause button to hit so we could regroup.”
Rush and other officers testified they did not expect the level of violence they encountered that day.
“From what we had dealt to us that day, our folks did a heck of a job,” Rush said, adding officers saved lives that day.
Prosecution testimony resumes Tuesday morning.