Grand jury clears Waco officers in biker shootout

Authorities investigate a shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco in this file photo.
Authorities investigate a shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco in this file photo. AP

A McClennan County grand jury has declined to indict three officers involved in the Twin Peaks shootout in Waco in 2015 that left nine bikers dead, 18 wounded and 177 in jail.

The officers — 15-year veteran Andy O’Neal, 11-year veteran Michael Bucher and 9-year veteran Heath Jackson — were no-billed, meaning the grand jury found insufficient grounds for a criminal trial.

“Our department along with numerous local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have worked tirelessly on the still on-going investigation of Twin Peaks,” Sgt. W. P. Swanton said in a statement. “We have completed an exhaustive internal investigation on the officer involved portion of the incident which was reviewed by the Texas Rangers. The three officers have been cleared by the investigation, and the action of the Grand Jury affirms those findings.”

The officers were responding to a deadly shootout involving rival motorcycle gangs at Twin Peaks on May 17, 2015. Police said five biker gangs, among them the Bandidos and rival Cossacks, had gathered for a meeting. There was a dispute about whether the Cossacks had been invited.

Swanton said at the time that the melee began with a parking dispute and someone running over a biker’s foot. The dispute escalated inside the restaurant, where fighting and then shooting began, before it spilled back outside, he said.

Police acknowledged that the three officers fired on armed bikers with semi-automatic rifles but it was unclear how many of the dead were shot by gang members and how many by officers. Two of the nine bikers killed, Matthew Mark Smith, 27, and Wayne Lee Campbell, 43, had Tarrant County ties.

More than 150 bikers were indicted after the shootout on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity.

Eight months later, national leaders of the Bandidos were indicted on federal charges of racketeering and waging a deadly “war” on the Cossacks after federal authorities renewed their interest in the biker gangs’ rivalry. That indictment mentioned other clashes between the Bandidos and rival clubs, including a December 2014 shooting at a bar in Fort Worth, where a biker was killed.

After the McClennan County grand jury released its decision not to indict the Waco officers in the Twin Peaks case, interim Waco Police Chief Frank Gentsch said in a statement: “These officers acted professional under very difficult circumstances. I’m glad to have this caliber of officers protecting our city. I appreciate the job conducted by the Department Investigators, the Texas Rangers, the McLennan County DA’s office and the Grand Jury in this case. I will be returning these officers to full duty immediately.”

Tom Uhler: 817-390-7832, @tomuh