Twin Peaks shootout

A federal judge has extended a stay in civil rights lawsuits filed by bikers arrested after the Twin Peaks shootout. At the same time, the judge signaled he may not extend the stay further for unindicted plaintiffs without specifics confirming they are actively being investigated.

A federal judge has extended a stay until Sept. 1 in the civil rights lawsuits filed by bikers arrested but not indicted in the Twin Peaks shootout until.

However, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks warned McLennan County and city of Waco officials that after that, he would need more than their assurances that cases against the unindicted bikers “remain under investigation” to convince him to keep the stay in place.

Sparks, of Austin, stayed proceedings in the Twin Peaks civil cases in August, saying the criminal prosecutions of the 155 bikers indicted in the cases took precedent over the civil lawsuits.

Attorneys for those bikers who were arrested but not indicted asked Sparks to lift the stay in their cases, but the judge, in a recent ruling, left the stay in place until at least Sept. 1.

The lawsuits name as defendants former Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, Waco police Detective Manuel Chavez, McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, the city of Waco and McLennan County.

The bikers claim their civil rights were violated when city and county officials decided to arrest 177 bikers on identical charges and place them under $1 million bonds after the May 17, 2015, shootout in which nine bikers died and dozens were injured.

“I’m disappointed that Reyna and Stroman continue to hide behind the unsubstantiated claim that even those who have not been indicted are ‘still under investigation,’ ” Dallas attorney Don Tittle said. “Not only have they agreed to drop all bond conditions for many of these individuals, many of their lawyers have been told directly that there is little to no chance that their client will be indicted. Regardless, come Sept. 1 we’ll be ready to start putting some people under oath.”

Tittle has filed suits on behalf of 31 bikers. Of those, only seven are indicted. Other civil rights lawsuits are expected to be filed before the statute of limitations expires on May 17.

No biker has gone to trial in the criminal case, and several trial dates that were set have been postponed. The first criminal trial is set now for June 5, with Kyle Smith, 50, a Cossack from Kilgore, as the defendant.

Reyna did not return a phone call Friday.

Attorney Mike Dixon, whose firm represents the city of Waco, Stroman and Chavez, said Friday that “we will just have to look at those unindicted cases at that time and see where they are at.”

Reyna conferred with Stroman by telephone and with Stroman’s top assistants at the scene of the shootout before the decision was made to arrest the bikers en masse.

Waco police officials already had interviewed and identified a busload of bikers and allowed them to leave Waco before Reyna arrived and conferred with Stroman. After that, every biker with ties to the Cossacks or rival Bandidos went to jail, including some bikers who weren’t at Twin Peaks when the shooting started.

Sparks instructed the defendants in the case that if the plaintiffs again ask him to lift the stay in cases involving unindicted bikers, they should “describe with specificity the status of its criminal investigation into plaintiffs and its expected duration.”

An effort to disqualify Reyna from overseeing the prosecution of the biker cases remains pending in Waco’s 10th Court of Appeals.

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