The Troubling Prosecution of Waco Bikers

Newly released videos leave little doubt that most people present were surprised that gunshots erupted and did their best to get away, not participate.

Mike Stone / Reuters

In Waco, Texas, authorities are still using a gag order to suppress evidence of what happened during the May 15, 2015, melee where 9 bikers were killed, some by the same caliber bullets used by police officers who fired their weapons that day. And newly available video underscores the likelihood that injustices are being perpetrated.

The carnage began after a fight broke out at a regional gathering of motorcycle clubs, including the Cossacks and the Bandidos, who started brawling in the parking lot.

There is no doubt that some bikers bear much blame.

The violence escalated quickly, but the parties responsible for the killings have yet to be revealed. In fact, the public has never been told how many were killed by police versus bikers, or whether that is known. Nevertheless, in the wake of the killings, 177 bikers were arrested. Authorities faced criticism for jailing so many, using fill-in-the-blank paperwork that didn’t differentiate among the jailed, even though it was always wildly implausible that so many bikers were involved in the killings. If the cops shot accurately, some of the guilty are presumably among the dead.

Now a Texas attorney has posted video from the dash cam of a police vehicle that underscores the injustice of first arresting 177 people, and then later charging most with conspiracy to kill:

Viewed by itself or alongside other video footage from the scene of the killings, it appears to show a tightly packed gathering of people who begin to scatter in surprised panic sometime after the 30-second mark, with many running around the building, others crouching behind cars, and still others fleeing through the restaurant.

Here’s a second video from a different angle that also shows most people running away from the violence:

Here is a third video released by the same attorney, this one shot from a patio:

There may well be some men who broke the law among the faces who passed by the camera. There are certainly men who drew guns. Maybe some should be jailed. These three videos certainly don’t resolve the Waco biker shooting by themselves.

They do, however, make one thing clear.

The vast majority of bikers present that day appear to have been shocked by the gunfire and inclined to flee the scene of lethal violence rather than to participate in it.

Yet prosecutors arrested the vast majority of this same group, later charging most of them. The videos make it seem plausible that dozens of people who fled trouble as expeditiously as possible have now spent almost a year of their lives in serious legal jeopardy, at great cost to their livelihoods and relationships.

None have gotten a trial or even a trial date.

“With a gag order firmly in place and hundreds of related cases that need to be tried,” The Houston Press declares, “it seems like it will be a long, long time before we get anything close to a complete picture of what happened in Waco.” But even the incomplete picture shows enough to conclude that the judge should lift the gag order.

Sunlight is the only thing that can disinfect this matter.