Last week Mart Mayor Pro Tem Henry Witt III showed unusual political courage in telling a Trib staff writer that he found it difficult to believe anything nefarious about Mart resident Sandra “Drama” Lynch. Yet Lynch and her husband, a 62-year-old plumber with a business, were swept up with others and jailed after the deadly May 17 biker shootout in nearby Waco.
Others offer similar comments about some of those arrested and incarcerated on $1 million bonds. And while Waco police rate praise for ending the gunfire without greater loss of life, wiser heads must now sort out for prompt release or reduced bonds those quite obviously not an integral part of criminal deeds.
Yes, a chorus of critics claim police acted precipitously in arresting 170 or so bikers after a high-noon Sunday shootout at a shopping center that left nine dead and 18 injured. Some allege police were just waiting for any sign of trouble to rush in, guns blazing.
A lot of this pivots on whether some loose cannon of a biker was fool enough to pull a gun or knife and begin shooting or slashing. If so, then reported police intelligence about the likelihood of trouble has credence — and at least someone at Twin Peaks that day gave police a legitimate excuse to move in.
What muddies waters is that biker culture is populated by some everyday riders who like slipping on leather vests and apparel displaying ties to specific motorcycle gangs that truly are a part of organized crime. For instance, the FBI says the Bandidos — some were at Waco’s Twin Peaks if their jackets are evidence — are steeped in drug trafficking, cross-border drug smuggling, human trafficking and prostitution.
If someone in no way involved in illegal activities was imprudent enough to wear a jacket touting allegiance or ties to the Bandidos, the Cossacks or another gang affiliated with criminal activity, not to mention violent turf wars, he or she will find out it was a costly mistake. All-too-typical example: a biker arrested with a Scimitars vest and a black T-shirt that reads “Support Your Local Cossacks.”
Even those intelligent bikers who do not wear vests, T-shirts or other apparel linked with outlaw motorcycle gangs must assume at least some responsibility if they knowingly mix at venues with members of such gangs. The fact some biker clubs have admirable aims in terms of religion or patriotism does not necessarily or entirely excuse them when trouble finally arises because of the very company they keep.
Some might decry Justice of the Peace Pete Peterson’s decision to hand out $1 million bonds, yet to our thinking it sends a clear message that such activities won’t be tolerated in Waco, which police say has not previously been a major hub for motorcycle gangsters.
But the arrests and setting of bonds happened 11 long days ago. Now our criminal justice system must properly expedite disposition of certain cases, especially when evidence — gainful employment, lack of a criminal record, motorcycle mileage — suggests bad judgment, not criminal pursuit. Certainly, this is at least justification for significantly lower bonds.
One more thing: The Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents might be on the level about the May 17 meeting being no more than a legislative update on motorcycle matters. But it should seriously re-examine its values and whether all of its members are law-abiding — or if the confederation is possibly content serving as a cover for gangs involved in prostitution and drug trafficking.