A Brenham woman described as “law-abiding and cooperative” who was arrested with her husband after the May 2015 Twin Peaks shootout is seeking $350 million in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.
Morgan English, a 32-year-old bank teller and mother of one, alleges in the suit that she committed no crime, was wrongfully arrested and improperly jailed for 16 days under $1 million bond after the incident that left nine dead and dozens injured.
The lawsuit, filed in an Austin federal court, names the city of Waco, McLennan County, former Waco police chief Brent Stroman, McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, Waco police detective Manuel Chavez and unnamed government agents as defendants.
“This is especially outrageous because a perjured arrest affidavit was issued for a young lady who arrived at the restaurant parking lot minutes before the shooting began,” said Houston attorney Randall Kallinen, who represents English. “Morgan English has now been portrayed all over the world as involved in a mass homicide. Her lawsuit is very different from others that have been filed following the melee that happened nearly 22 months ago.”
Drove to restaurant
The suit says English and her husband drove in a car with two friends to Waco to attend a meeting that day of the Coalition of Clubs and Independents, a group of motorcyclists who get together to discuss legislative issues and other topics of interest.
The lawsuit says the Englishes were not aware of the growing animosity between the Cossacks and Bandidos groups and they knew nothing about an ongoing criminal investigation by multiple police agencies into the two groups’ activities.
Neither wore an insignia that connected them to the Bandidos or Cossacks, the suit says.
During an examining trial in their case in August 2015, Department of Public Safety Lt. Steven Schwartz testified that William and Morgan English wore patches that identified them as members of a group called Distorted. Another patch identified them as members of a support group for the Bandidos, which Schwartz said has been identified as a criminal street gang.
Schwartz said he thinks the Englishes were aware of the rift between the Cossacks and Bandidos and they were there that day in a show of support for the Bandidos.
But under cross-examination from Houston attorney Paul Looney, who represented the Englishes at the hearing, Schwartz said neither he nor other DPS investigators were aware that the seven-member Distorted group existed before May 17, 2015. Looney said that of the seven members, only William English has a hint of a criminal past, what he called an “old DWI.”
Schwartz said he saw nothing that day and has developed no subsequent evidence to show the Englishes are involved in criminal activity.
According to the lawsuit, the Englishes parked “a good distance away” from Twin Peaks and walked toward the restaurant. Before they entered, shots rang out, and they took cover.
“Morgan and William did not strike, shoot or assault anyone, or attempt to do so, nor did they encourage others to take such actions,” the suit claims. “They committed no crime nor was there probable cause they committed any crime.”
The Englishes cooperated with police after the shootout, the suit says. Once the decision was made to arrest anyone who met certain criteria, identical arrest warrant affidavits that the lawsuit contends lacked probable cause and were filled with “misrepresentation,” were drafted to support the arrests of 177 that night.
Among the misrepresentations, according to the suit, is that Morgan English, a graduate of Stephen F. Austin University and a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, is a member of a criminal street gang. She is not, the suit says.
“When I first met Morgan, she had been held in custody for 13 days. My first efforts were to get her released and removed from the suspicion of criminal behavior,” Looney said. “Only after the authorities made that an impossibility did I finally decide there was no choice but to use a lawsuit to change the prosecutorial environment in Waco once and for all.
“This lady is, was and always will be virginally innocent of any criminal behavior that occurred at Twin Peaks. What happened to her, however, is a cruel and excruciating crime not of her own making, and $350 million is an appropriate figure for this case,” Looney said.