Free The Waco Bikers!
The meeting that was to be held on May 17, 2015, at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, was not a meeting of "rival biker gangs" as has been characterized by the Waco Police Department. It was a regularly scheduled meeting of Region 1 (Central Texas) of the Texas
Confederation of Clubs and Independents (TXCoC&I) -- a statewide organization which fosters discussion between all biker organizations (motorcycle clubs, motorcycle associations, rider associations, support associations, motorcycle ministries, etc.) on topics of mutual interest (lane splitting, profiling of motorcyclists, the right to wear a club patch while eating in a diner, state politicians who are sympathetic and unsympathetic about so called "biker rights," and the legal implications of traffic intersection mass detectors that cannot detect motorcycles); protects biker rights and freedoms at the state capitol; promotes safety and awareness on Texas streets and highways; and supports and coordinates charitable work, year around, to improve the quality of life for Texans in need.
Such meetings are held in each of the TXCoC&I's 12 regions periodically throughout the year. There has never been violence at any TXCoC&I meeting, and, there was no reason to expect violence at the May 17 meeting. The Waco PD spokesman to the media, Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, has refused to name the Region 1 member clubs represented at the meeting; however, they are: Bandidos Motorcycle Club (TXCoC&I Region 1 Chairman is Jimmy "Gimme Jimmy" Graves -- a Bandidos member ); Blackett Arms Motorcycle Club; Gypsy Motorcycle Club; HonorBound Motorcycle Ministry; Renatus Motorcycle Club; Escondidos Motorcycle Club; Sons of the South Motorcycle Club; Los Pirados Motorcycle Club; Leathernecks Motorcycle Club; Vietnam Vets/Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club; In Country Motorcycle Club; and the Tornado Motorcycle Club. Such meetings are open to any motorcyclists who wish to attend.
We don't yet know the facts of what transpired at the Twin Peaks restaurant that led to the deaths of nine motorcyclists, but what happened to the Constitutional guarantee that individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty?
Most in jail are charged with "conspiracy to commit capital murder." The identical arrest warrant affidavits were filed in all 170 cases and all fail to cite the elements of an engaging in organized criminal activity case, paints all defendants with an overly broad brush and rely on nothing more than "guilt by association." Justice of the Peace W.H. "Pete" Peterson set $1 million bonds for each defendant, saying he was doing so to "send a message" because of the "atrocity of the incident and the impact on the community." This, of course, requires each defendant to raise at least $100,000 in order to secure the required $1 million bond for their release from a bail bondsman. This bond is unreasonably oppressive and the justice of the peace and the state district judges who, so far, have not reduced them have shown bias and should be recused. State District Judges Matt Johnson and Ralph Strother have scheduled bond reduction hearings in about 10 cases for June 5 and June 12; however the bulk of the hearings are not scheduled to be conducted until July! By that time, many innocent people will have been in jail in excess of 45 days.
Waco police spokesman Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said in a statement to the media that there were people at the Twin Peaks restaurant at the time of the shootout who weren't arrested. In his words, "If you were innocent, or we thought you were innocent, you were one of those that did not get arrested." Officials failed to call in judges, who could have magistrated the bikers, gotten a sense of how many merely were in the wrong place at the wrong time and "helped provide adequate due process." Tales abound of factually innocent bikers who are being presumed guilty until proven innocent.
A defendant named Jeff Battey was the first defendant to post bail Wednesday morning, May 20. Battey "has bullet fragments lodged in his arms," according to his lawyer, Seth Sutton. "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time like many others who are innocent yet being held under that bond," Sutton told Houston television station KRIV. "Law enforcement authorities are saying that, in this short amount of time, they've already gathered probable cause that these 200 people have participated in a plot to commit capital murder. That's difficult for us to believe." Battey must wear an electronic ankle monitor while he awaits the chance to clear his name. He is currently being treated in a Dallas hospital.
The Associated Press reports that Theron Rhoten, a mechanic from Austin, an antique motorcycle enthusiast and a member of the Vice Grip Motorcycle Club, was arrested with two club brothers when he arrived at the meeting after the shooting stopped. The Vice Grips build, repair and ride pre-1970 Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
A retired, San Antonio police detective named Marty Lewis, is among the accused "organized criminals" trying to raise $1 million bail. Lewis was fired from his job as a school bus driver for the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio after his arrest. Spokesman Pascual Gonzalez told the San Antonio Express-News that Lewis had passed a background check when the district hired him in August 2014. Lewis retired from the San Antonio Police Department in February 2004 after 32 years of service.
One of the nine people killed in the melee was Jesse Delgado Rodriguez, 65, whose son, Vincent Ramirez, said his father was a former Marine, recipient of a Purple Heart for wounds received in Vietnam, a retired factory worker, a motorcycle lover – and not armed, and not a gang member. An Associated Press review of court records and a database maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety found no criminal history in Texas for Rodriguez. Further, he was not a member of any of the "gangs" reputed to be involved in the "shootout."
Distorted MC is a new "mom and pop" motorcycle club in Texas, meaning they are family oriented, all very close knit and loving and most club events are suitable for the whole family. They are proud of their seven members who spend 100 percent of their club time and money doing things to help children in need, clothes drives and toy runs, and sponsoring families at Christmastime. The five Distorted members who attended the meeting were not in the immediate vicinity of the altercation or the shooting, by two separate accounts, when they heard shots fired. Yet all are behind bars, including two women.
Jimmy Pond, a mechanic from Hays County, is the sole supporter of his family, which includes a disabled wife and autistic son. He attended the meeting and wound up in jail, unable to care for his family.
Diego N. Obledo, 40, doesn't even own a motorcycle but was arrested after driving friends in his Toyota Venza to the Twin Peaks restaurant where the brawl broke out, according to San Antonio lawyer A.L. Hernden, who is helping the family. Hernden said Diego Obledo was "just standing around" but was caught up in the sweep as 170 people were arrested by Waco law officers. More than 30 are from the San Antonio area. Obledo has since been fired from his job at USAA, where he was an appraisal review specialist and three months away from being vested, Hernden said. Obledo is not in any gang, but accompanied friends in a motorcycle club for a meeting meant to discuss motorcycle laws and safety, according to Hernden.
John Wilson and his 28-year-old son, Jake, remain locked up together in McLennan County Jail while their Harley-Davidson shop on Interstate 35, Legend Cycles, is closed indefinitely. Michael White, a Bell County attorney representing Wilson, said "He is devastated and his wife is devastated. He told me very clearly that he never would have brought his son to something that was going to be a volatile, hostile environment." The future of Legend Cycles is in doubt. "He's going to try to reopen, but he's afraid the publicity might ruin him," White said.
Sandra Lynch, of Mart, Texas, is well-known among Texas bikers for organizing charity concerts for cancer patients, rescuing dogs, and fighting for motorcycle-friendly legislation. In fact, it was she who reserved the Twin Peaks' patio for the May 17 TCoC&I Region 1 meeting. Lynch, 53, is in jail with her plumber husband, Mike, 62. Sandra is president of the Los Pirados Motorcycle Club -- a "mom and pop" club based in McLennan County. She has traveled across Texas promoting a "share the road" campaign, and was part of a group that recently accepted a proclamation from Lacy Lakeview City Council for motorcycle awareness month. The Lynch's arrests have caused a hardship on the entire family. Sandra normally serves as caretaker for a 13-year-old grandson and has seven rescue dogs, which Lynch's grown children are having to care for. They are also having to run Mike's plumbing business. Mart Mayor-Pro-Tem Henry Witt III grew up with the Lynch children. "It's hard for me to believe Sandra and Mike are murderers," Witt said.
Records searched by the Associated Press show more than 115 of the 170 people arrested in the aftermath of the shootout have not been convicted of a crime in Texas.
Video footage from the security cameras of the Twin Peaks restaurant, reviewed by the Associated Press, shows that when gunfire erupted in the parking lot of the restaurant, most of the bikers watching the confrontation from the patio or inside immediately ran away from the shooting. A few tried to direct people to safety, crawling on all fours heading for cover. According to the AP, only one of the dozens of bikers present was recorded firing a gun from the patio of the restaurant.
Sergeant Swanton said in a statement that an initial figure of more than 1,000 recovered weapons was "overestimated," and that after a more complete count was done, the number was revised to "318 and counting, with the crime scene still being processed." He cited pocketknives, larger military-style knives, brass knuckles, clubs, chains with padlocks on them and, of course, 118 handguns, and an AK-47 assault rifle in a vehicle in the parking lot. How many of the handguns were confiscated from holders of Texas concealed handgun licenses? How many of the chains with padlocks were not weapons, but to be used for securing motorcycles from theft?
The New York Times reported that the local jail and court system is clogged up with arrestees and that the court cases "could drag on for months and even years." Many of those arrested have lost their jobs, vehicles, and reputations. Their clubs would have to gather huge amounts of money to get them all out on bond. There are some husbands and wives who are both in jail, dramatically affecting their families and homes.
McLennan County is spending $7,958 a day to house those jailed. A week and a half after the shooting, the county has spent upward of $80,000 just to house the inmates.
There are troubling reports coming from family members of the detainees that they are not being adequately fed, clothed, showered, and that those with medical conditions are not receiving their required medications.
One detainee reports being jailed at 3:00 p.m. on May 17, and not being fed until I a.m. on May 18. At that time, he received four pieces of white bread, one slice of bologna (which was apparently spoiled), one slice of cheese, and an orange. The food was thrown at him by the guard in the county jail. The detainee was expected to drink water from the sink in the cell.
Detainees report that they were unable to obtain needed medications for health conditions that they suffer from. Among these health conditions are COPD, Insulin-dependent Diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy, sleep apnea, and post traumatic stress disorder (highly prevalent among veteran detainees). Reportedly one detainee suffered from a diabetic coma on May 19 or 20th. An epilepsy sufferer went without medication for more than nine days. Detainees who attempted multiple times to request medical assistance for their pre-existing health conditions were often ignored. One individual who made repeated requests for medical attention was reportedly confined in the Psychiatric Unit in a straight jacket.
Detainees report that they did not receive clean clothing until May 23 -- their sixth day of incarceration.
Detainees report that they were not permitted to shower for the first week of their incarceration.
No detainee was able to see a doctor for more than a week. Any medical care was provided by a nurse.
Published reports indicate that Waco and McLennan County could realize more than $3 million from the sale of motorcycles and cars seized at the crime scene.
Each day that passes infringes on these individuals' civil rights and helps promote the "Gestapo-esque militarization of law enforcement."
We the petitioners request:
That the Attorney General of the United States order an immediate civil rights investigation into the events that transpired at the Twin Peaks restaurant and determine whether the force used by federal, state, and local law enforcement officers was proper and appropriate.
The Governor of Texas, with the assistance of the Texas Attorney General, demand the immediate recusal of Justice of the Peace W.H. "Pete" Peterson, State 19th District Court Judge Ralph Strother, and State 54th District Court Judge Matt Johnson and prohibit them from acting further in the cases of those jailed.
The Governor of Texas, with the assistance of the Texas Attorney General, name judges to immediately magistrate the cases of those arrested to determine how many were in the wrong place at the wrong time and provide adequate due process. Those found to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time should be released from jail immediately and have their personal property returned.
The Governor of Texas immediately direct the Commission on Jail Standards to inspect and certify that the jail facilities housing the detainees conform to minimum standards of construction, maintenance and operation -- including the custody, care and treatment of inmates.
The Governor of Texas direct the Texas Attorney General to recuse McLennan County Criminal District Attorney Abelino "Abel" Reyna from further action on this case because of his demonstrated bias against the bikers. He told KXXV "the ones claiming to be victims need to start acting like victims and cooperating with police investigators." He told the reporter, "If someone is claiming that they were a victim and they decided to put on their jacket or whatever and they said they're going to be a member of this gang or whatever. I can tell you this. If you are a victim of this, then I would fully expect you would act like a victim, and I just say I'm not seein' that."
The Mayor of Waco, Texas, with the assistance of the Waco Chief of Police, name another police spokesman who will provide factual information regarding the events of May 17, 2015, and live up to the pledge of city officials to be "transparent" regarding the facts of this case. This should include the immediate release of the forensic pathology reports that will indicate the origin of the bullets that killed nine bikers and wounded another 18.