Waco police rarely dispatched to Twin Peaks prior to biker shootout, records reveal

Jason Sickles
The Waco, Texas parking lot where nine people were killed during a lunch-hour shootout involving rival bikers and police. (Jerry Larson/AP)

Patrol officers were seldom sent to investigate trouble at Twin Peaks restaurant prior to the May deadly biker shootout in Waco, Texas, records obtained by Yahoo News reveal.

The scarce number of calls conflicts with how law enforcement portrayed the self-described “breastaurant” immediately after the brazen lunch-hour rampage.

“We have been made aware in the last few months of rival biker gangs — rival criminal biker gangs — being here and causing issues,” Waco police Sgt. Patrick Swanton told reporters outside the sports bar turned crime scene last month. “We have attempted to work with the local management of Twin Peaks to get that cut back, to no avail.”

If Twin Peaks was a powder keg leading up the deadly brawl — there’s apparently not much of paper trail to prove it.

A police dispatch log shows officers averaged less than one call a month to Twin Peaks between the restaurant’s opening in August and the May 17 shooting.

Waco, Texas police officer dispatches to Twin Peaks between last August and the May 17 deadly shooting. Click image for larger view. 

Out of eight trips, just two of the calls — a car break-in and a domestic assault — merited officers filing offense reports. No one was arrested at Twin Peaks in the nine months it was open, records reveal.

Prior to the shootout, an officer had not been dispatched to Twin Peaks since Feb. 26, according to the police log, which Yahoo News obtained through the Texas Public Information Act.

The absence of police responding to Twin Peaks is just one of several contradictions in the narrative since the shooting took place. Authorities initially said the deadly brawl began in the restaurant bathroom. But a security video shown to the Associated Press showed only one round being fired from the restaurant — by a biker on the patio before running inside. Swanton told CNN that 1,000 weapons had been recovered before later backing off that number. The latest count is at least 475, including 151 guns, police said.

“You start pulling some strings and this whole thing is just coming apart,” Dallas attorney Clint Broden told Yahoo News. “As more and more information comes out, they are being caught in more and more either outright lies or exaggerations.”

Broden represents Matthew Clendennen, one of the 177 bikers jailed after the lunch-hour melee that left nine dead and 18 injured. Clendennen, a college graduate, father and local businessman, said he wasn’t involved in the fighting. He recently filed a civil rights lawsuit to address “carelessness from the justice system.”

This combination of booking photos provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows people arrested after the Twin Peaks shootout. (AP)

A month after the shootout, no murder charges have been filed, and the Waco city attorney’s office has asked the Texas attorney general for permission to bar basic police reports about those who died. Forty of the arrested bikers remain behind bars, some of them in lieu of $1 million bond — the identical amount initially assigned to everyone. Research by the AP found that 117 of those arrested had never been convicted of a crime in Texas.

Waco police, who were involved in the shootout, haven’t revealed who fired the fatal shots — although Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman said last week that most of the 44 shell casings found at the scene were from suspects’ guns. Casings are still being counted, but as of last week, police stated only a dozen were discharged by officers, “in defense of their selves of a third party.”

Believing that trouble was brewing that Sunday, at least 16 officers were stationed in marked and unmarked cars near the restaurant prior to the shooting. Twin Peaks’ management, police said, rejected advice to not let a coalition of bikers meet.

“This criminal element came here to kill people. They didn’t come here to drink beer and eat barbecue,” Swanton told a reporter at the scene. “If police are asking for assistance and you don’t listen, bad things can happen.”

“They have continued to allow these bikers to gather here, and this is the culmination,” Waco police Sgt. Patrick Swanton told reporters last month. (Mike Stone/Reuters)

Yahoo News requested copies of all written communication — letters, emails, texts, etc. — between police and the Waco restaurant or Twin Peaks’ corporate office in 2015. The Department responded that no such records exist.

“I know our officers had visited with (Twin Peaks managers),” Swanton told Yahoo News on Wednesday. “I do know our SAFE Unit (Support, Abatement, Forfeiture and Enforcement) that works with problem clubs had also visited with them, but I do not know to what extent.”

Law enforcement often recruits the assistance of state liquor authorities in cracking down on balky businesses. But the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission had received no complaints or reports of violations at Twin Peaks prior to the shooting, said agency spokesman Chris Porter.

Neither the Dallas business group that owns the Waco restaurant nor their attorneys replied to a message seeking comment for this story. Twin Peaks Waco has not reopened and is now in a legal battle over the franchise rights.

Two days after the shooting, a Twin Peaks waitress posted this comment to Facebook: “There are always fights on bike nights, so we expected the usual. Nobody thought it was gonna be taken this far.”

Swanton said he couldn’t explain why the records released to Yahoo News didn’t reflect other previous crimes or arrests at the location.

“I don’t have all of that,” Swanton said. “I can tell you we were aware of issues there.”

Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo News. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).