WACO, Texas — A gun stuffed inside a bag of tortilla chips. Weapons wedged between bags of flour. A handgun left in a toilet.
Days after a massive shootout left nine bikers dead, police are finding more evidence and clues about what happened at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas.
Among them: More than 300 weapons left behind. And some bikers may have stashed away even more, police said.
“These were vicious criminals that knew that they were in trouble, and they were trying to dispose of evidence,” Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.
With 170 suspects in custody, authorities have a complex investigation on their hands. All of the suspects face charges of engaging in organized crime, and each one has bail set at $1 million.
So far, only one person has made bail. Jeff Battey, 40, bonded out of the McLennan County jail on Wednesday, a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation said.
How it all started
Swanton said some motorcycle groups had reserved the outdoor bar area at Twin Peaks when “an additional biker gang” showed up uninvited.
A quarrel in the parking lot soon followed, Swanton said, and it may have involved a tiff over a parking spot or someone having his foot run over.
The arrest warrants for some suspects offered even more details: Members of the Cossacks were in the Twin Peaks parking lot when members of the rival Bandidos biker gang arrived.
But the ruckus didn’t stop there. Swanton said there were “crime scenes inside and outside” the restaurant, including in the bathroom, dining area and around the bar.
The assailants used all sorts of weapons — brass knuckles, guns, knives and chains. And when police responded, Swanton said, some bikers turned their weapons on them.
Restaurant security camera footage showing Sunday’s events is now in the hands of investigators, a representative for the Waco Twin Peaks said Wednesday. The video shows that “no violence started inside the restaurant,” the franchise said in a statement.
“What happened inside the restaurant was that people sought safety inside, where they assisted each other and came to the aid of patrons, staff and management,” the statement said.
Waco police initially estimated that investigators recovered more than 1,000 weapons from the restaurant. Police revised that number Wednesday afternoon, saying their count had reached 318 weapons, including more than 100 handguns and more than 100 knives.
Who was involved?
The nine men killed in the shootout ranged in age from 27 to 65, the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences said. Some of them were fathers. All of them died of gunshot wounds.
Families went through harrowing hours when they tried to find their loved ones and weren’t sure whether they’d survived, said Rocki Hughes, whose ex-husband, Jacob Lee Rhyne, was among those killed.
“We didn’t find out and it wasn’t confirmed until my kids had already seen pictures of their dad dead on the tailgate of a truck,” she said. They recognized him, she said, because of his large beard and the tattoos of his children’s names on his forearms.
Rhyne, 39, had been a member of the Cossacks for about six months. He went to the restaurant to make peace with the Bandidos, Hughes said.
Portraying all of the bikers as violent, she said, simply isn’t fair.
“He didn’t believe in guns,” she said. “He got in many fights throughout his years, but he never needed a gun to protect himself.”
So why did he join the Cossacks?
“To be a part of something, I guess,” Hughes told CNN. “That’s a question I’m still asking. … Our kids are broken up. He was an awesome father, and just as good as a friend, and I don’t understand it either.”
Sandra Lynch, aka “Drama,” was among those arrested. A member of the Los Pirados motorcycle club, she’s married to Michael Lynch, who also was arrested.
They’re grandparents who share a love for biking — and Twin Peaks.
Their son told CNN they’re not criminals or gang members. They were at the restaurant for a monthly meeting, nothing more.
“Everyone there is not a thug. My parents are not thugs,” he said. “I think this is injustice to have so many people in jail.” He would not give his name, saying he feared police retribution.
None of the defendants have had their day in court yet. Some of their families, reached by CNN, say the high bail is ridiculous and unfair.