Texas

DPS: Territory rift in Waco led to biker brawl

Police detain and watch members of various motorcycle clubs outside the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco on May 17. A shootout among rival motorcycle gangs left nine bikers dead and more than a dozen injured.
Police detain and watch members of various motorcycle clubs outside the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco on May 17. A shootout among rival motorcycle gangs left nine bikers dead and more than a dozen injured. The Associated Press

The bloody brawl in Waco that left nine bikers dead came amid a territorial clash between the Bandidos Motorcycle Club and “several other groups,” most notably the Cossacks, a new gang report says.

While the details of the May melee are still being investigated, the Cossacks had been defying the Bandidos, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s 2015 Texas Gang Threat Assessment.

All 177 people arrested in Waco are charged with engaging in organized crime. They are accused of being part of a conspiracy to commit assault and murder as part of the clash between the groups.

“Cossacks members have recently started wearing the Texas patch on the bottom of their vests without the approval of the Bandidos,” notes the report, released Monday. “Traditionally, the Bandidos have been the dominant motorcycle club in Texas, and thus no other club is allowed to wear the Texas patch without their consent.”

Wearing such a patch is like proclaiming the state as territory.

“The incident in Waco was preceded by a series of violent incidents reportedly associated with the Bandidos,” the report says. “The majority of these incidents occurred in the northern half of the state.”

Like the Bandidos, the Cossacks have roots going back to the 1960s.

While the Bandidos have been on the radar of law enforcement for years, it took the Waco clash for the Cossacks to debut in the annual DPS report.

In the motorcycle world, the Bandidos are considered to be on a par with the Hells Angels. The DPS classifies them alongside the Bloods, the Crips and the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

“This conflict and the violent incident in Waco highlight the public safety threat posed by gangs and gang rivalries,” the report says. “Law enforcement continues to monitor the conflict involving these groups due to the potential for additional violence or further escalations.”

Cossacks and Bandidos take exception to being called “gangsters,” saying it’s an unfair label given by law enforcement.

The state has about 100,000 gang members, according to the report, but no groups considered by DPS to be gangs have drawn such attention in recent months.

The DPS says the gangs posing the greatest threat to the state include Tango Blast, the Texas Mexican Mafia, the Texas Syndicate, MS-13 and the Latin Kings.

They are seen as especially strong because of their ties to Mexican drug cartels, their statewide presence and their propensity for violence, according to the report.

“Our residents have a right to live free from fear and crime, and DPS remains steadfast in our mission to identify, dismantle and disrupt these criminal organizations,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a statement.

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