The three Waco police officers who fired shots during the Twin Peaks shootout remain on administrative duties more than a year after the incident that left nine bikers dead and more than 20 wounded.
Waco police who are involved in shootings historically are placed on administrative leave with pay until they are cleared by department internal reviews and a grand jury inquiry.
In cases not promptly presented to a grand jury, officers have been taken off administrative leave, where they don’t come to work at all, and assigned to administrative duties, where they are put behind a desk or in some other role before they return to the street.
Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman said the three officers who fired a total of 12 shots at bikers that day stayed on administrative leave for about two months after the May 17, 2015, incident and then were placed on administrative duty.
Stroman declined to name the three officers but said they all were assigned to the patrol division at the time of the shootings.
He also declined to say what jobs they are performing while on administrative duties but said they could be performing such duties as training other officers or other administrative functions.
Stroman said he does not know when McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna intends to present the officer-involved shooting cases to a grand jury.
Reyna did not return phone messages left at his office, and First Assistant District Attorney Michael Jarrett declined to discuss the issue.
Stroman said the department’s criminal investigation into the chaotic event is not complete, and the internal investigation relies heavily on evidence gathered during the criminal investigation.
“We wait for the criminal investigative part or the part that is being looked at by the detectives to be finalized, and the internal investigation flows after that,” Stroman said. “Typically on the internal side, it is a fairly quick process after the criminal investigation is finished. For the internal, we look at policy violations and other things, like any kind of training needs that might be called for. But this all needs to go through the usual process, and when the time is right, they will take it to the grand jury. This has taken longer because of the complexity of the process.”
Stroman said in June the 12 shell casings fired from police .223-caliber rifles were found at the scene. No other law enforcement officers from other agencies fired their weapons, he said.
A total of 44 shell casings had been recovered at that time, but Stroman said that total doesn’t include any casings that remained inside revolvers that may have been fired. All other shells found at the scene weren’t from law enforcement weapons, he said.
Stroman also disputed reports that Waco police had officers assigned to the area as snipers and said, “We did not fire indiscriminately into the crowd.”
All Waco police officers were inside their vehicles when the shooting started at Twin Peaks, officials have said.
That fact disturbs Houston attorney Paul Looney, who represents a biker indicted in the shootout and who has been one of the more vocal detractors of the way Waco and McLennan County officials have handled the situation.
“I think that there was some tragic misplanning,” Looney said. “If the police officers, instead of being on the perimeter had instead positioned themselves in the parking lot, we probably wouldn’t have had an incident at all. If they knew things were going to happen, that is what police forces do. This was tragically flawed in the planning, and whoever did that planning should be fired.”
Despite that, Looney says he thinks the officers acted properly once they decided to engage.
“The officers at the scene, as far as I can tell, responded appropriately. It appears to have saved lives,” Looney said. “I don’t think these officers for what they did at the scene are realistically facing negative ramifications. I have reviewed all the videos and read all the reports, and I don’t think they had any choice. If they had behaved differently, there would have been more carnage than there was.”
Waco police have reported that officers recovered 475 weapons at the scene, including 151 firearms, 12 of which were rifles or shotguns. Other weapons included knives, brass knuckles, batons, tomahawks, weighted weapons, a hatchet, stun guns, bats, clubs, a machete, a pipe, an ax, pepper spray and a chain.