The secrecy that enshrouds the investigation into a biker shootout in May that left nine people dead and led to the mass arrest of 177 people is not surprising in Waco, where public scrutiny is rare and unwelcome. reports the Associated Press. Waco and the surrounding county are largely run by a close-knit circle of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement that defense lawyers complain leads agencies to close ranks. No formal charges have been made, and it remains unclear whose bullets, including police bullets, struck the dead and injured, or when cases will be presented to a grand jury. “I don’t know of any defense lawyer who hasn’t looked at the facts of this case and gasped,” said Grant Scheiner, a criminal defense attorney in Houston not connected to the bikers’ case.
Waco police, McLennan County prosecutors and judges refused to comment — citing a gag order written by the District Attorney — but law enforcement staunchly defend their actions, including the 12 shots that the police chief said officers fired into the melee after bikers allegedly opened fire on them. The violence erupted May 17 before a meeting of a coalition of motorcycle clubs that advocates rider safety. Police said two rival biker gangs got into a confrontation that turned deadly when one group of bikers opened fire on another outside a restaurant. Some 177 people were arrested and remained in custody until their bonds were reduced. Defense attorneys criticize how the cases have been processed, accusing District Attorney Abel Reyna of writing “fill-in-the-blank” arrest affidavits. Police and Reyna described everyone who was taken into custody as criminals, but an AP review of a state database found no convictions listed under the names and birthdates of more than two-thirds of those arrested.