bikers photo

Waco police detain bikers outside Twin Peaks restaurant after the May 17, 2015, shootout.

At the moment, more than a dozen examining trials are scheduled for some of the bikers arrested in the wake of the May 17 shooting melee at Twin Peaks that left nine dead and some 20 people injured. But if Monday’s hearing for a biker and his wife is any indication, we may not learn much more than many of us concluded three months ago, such as the perils of wearing colors or biker insignia when gunfire breaks out among some questionable company.

This bit of wisdom remains true: It might be your right to wear whatever biker colors you desire wherever and whenever you choose. From a strictly ideological perspective, it is, after all, your First Amendment right. But if you get caught in the middle of what at least some allege was a brawl between two rival motorcycle gangs, then from a strictly pragmatic and societal perspective, it’s quite likely you’ll be viewed with great suspicion by the police.

In the short run, that may well qualify as grounds for arrest. In the long run, that alone shouldn’t sway anyone in a jury trial or, possibly, even before a discriminating grand jury.

As Trib staffer Tommy Witherspoon reported this week, retired District Judge James Morgan ruled Waco police had sufficient cause to arrest 34-year-old Brenham resident William English and his wife, Morgan, 31, on May 17. Much of the testimony focused on the fact the Englishes wore patches or insignia deemed supportive of the Bandidos. Some describe the Bandidos as a biker club; others such as the FBI classify it as a biker gang involved in organized crime such as drugs and prostitution.

However, during Monday’s examining trial (click here to read our story), it became obvious that at least one of the patches worn by the Englishes — a patch identifying them as part of a small club dubbed Distorted — was largely unfamiliar to law enforcement. And under questioning by the Englishes’ attorney, Paul Looney, it appears there was even concession by law enforcement that, other than having such patches and a gun locked up in their car, little in the way of evidence existed beyond the Englishes’ being on the scene of a crime with more than 200 others.

Last week’s autopsy reports of the dead in the May 17 shooting make clear the importance of symbols in the lives of some of these bikers, judging from the mix of tattoos — some divine, some profane. One who had identified himself as a Cossack and had trace amounts of methamphetamine in his system had a tattoo on his arm that read, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Another of the dead had the word “Lucifer” on his left forearm and the word “Satan” and an inverted cross on his lower right leg.

In the absence of more credible evidence such as a ballistics report or relevant video of the shooting, one might be tempted to count too heavily on symbols, icons and insignia as enough to indict some individuals. If justice is to be truly served in the final analysis in Waco, far more is required of law enforcement and prosecutors.

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