170 bikers to be charged after nine die in deadly Waco gang brawl that started as fistfight
Around 170 people are to face charges over the deadly mass brawl between rival motorcycle gangs that left nine people dead and a suburban US shopping centre described as a war zone.
Police said they would face organised crime charges and added that they were preparing for potential revenge attacks by other bikers arriving in the city of Waco, Texas, after the mayhem on Sunday that also left 18 people injured with gunshot and stab wounds.
The fight broke out in the toilet of a restaurant where members of five biker groups had gathered for what police called a "recruitment event".
The dispute began with fists and spilt out into the restaurant and car park with brass knuckles, knives, motorcycle chains and guns being used.
Police who had been stationed nearby in anticipation of trouble then became involved in a gunfight with the bikers, and patrol cars and motorcycles were riddled with bullets.
Michelle Logan (37), who was in the Twin Peaks bar when the fight broke out, said: "There were maybe 30 guns being fired in the parking lot, maybe 100 rounds. They just opened fire."
She said the fight appeared to have been "set up" rather than a spontaneous event.
The FBI is to investigate whether it was a planned ambush by one group against another. Those who died were members of two gangs, the Bandidos and the Cossacks.
Three other gangs were believed to have taken sides. Parnell McNamara, the McLennan County Sheriff, said: "There's been some trouble brewing between these gangs for some time."
Those rounded up and arrested are being charged with engaging in organised crime. Some may face further charges, including murder.
The arrested group was first taken to a local convention centre and then moved to a county jail. Police took positions on overpasses and building tops to provide security.
The restaurant is in a busy shopping and dining complex called the Central Texas Marketplace.
Sergeant Patrick Swanton said: "It was bad guys on bad guys. When our officers arrived, those bad guys turned their guns on our officers.
"It is a pretty gruesome scene. There is blood everywhere. Twenty-five feet away was another restaurant full of innocent people. I was amazed that we didn't have innocent civilians killed. It was absolute, complete chaos. Gunshots going off, people fleeing."
He said the inside of the Twin Peaks was littered with bullet casings, knives, bodies and pools of blood. Investigators found more than 100 weapons at the scene.
"We are not in a rush. This is obviously a very large investigation involving numerous agencies and organisations," he added.
There are more than 300 outlawed motorcycle gangs in the United States.
The Bandidos are a major gang with 900 members and comparable in size and reach to the Hells Angels with offshoots around the world.
According to the US Department of Justice, they are heavily involved in the distribution of cocaine, cannabis, and methamphetamine.
The Cossacks are said to be a smaller group that appears to have challenged the Bandidos for supremacy in Texas, recently having the state's name printed on their jackets.
Twin Peaks is a chain restaurant known for scantily-clad waitresses serving bar food and large mugs of beer.
The Waco restaurant had been used as a meeting place for motorcycle gangs for the past few months, police said. They had asked the restaurant's managers to put a halt to the meetings, but said they did not heed the requests. (© Daily Telegraph, London)