CRIME

Waco Restaurant Video Shows Bikers, Others Seeking Cover

05/20/2015 09:59 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015
ASSOCIATED PRESS

WACO, Texas (AP) — As gunfire broke out in the parking lot of a Texas restaurant, dozens of motorcycle riders ran inside seeking cover and tried to guide others to safety, security video reviewed exclusively by The Associated Press showed Wednesday.

The video, shared by representatives of the restaurant, shows bikers on the patio ducking under tables and trying to get inside. At least three people were holding handguns. One biker was seen running with blood on his face, hands and torso.

The footage shows only one round being fired — by a biker on the patio who then ran inside.

Authorities have said the shooting began during an apparent confrontation between two rival motorcycle gangs — the Bandidos and the Cossacks. Some bikers have complained that police acted too hastily in making arrests and scooped up riders who had nothing to do with the violence.

Before the shooting begins, the inside of the restaurant appears to be mostly empty. Bikers and other patrons can be seen walking to the windows facing the parking lot where most of the shooting happened.

When gunfire erupts at 12:24 p.m., most bikers, other patrons and staff immediately run away from the windows and into the restaurant's interior. At least three people can be seen holding handguns.

One camera angle shows bikers running into the men's bathroom. When there's no space left in the bathroom, they dash toward the kitchen.

Another camera angle, on the far side of the restaurant from the gunfire, shows patrons who are not wearing biker gear crawling behind tables toward the kitchen. At least three bikers appear to be gesturing for the patrons to crawl to safety.

None of the nine video angles shows the parking lot.

Only one angle, taken from inside a back office in the restaurant, had audio. At 12:24 p.m., a woman is heard screaming, "Oh my God!" That's followed by multiple cries of "Get back!" Two minutes later, three gunshots are heard. It's not clear who fired.

Video shows police with assault rifles entering the front door at about the same time. As two officers enter, bikers can be seen lying on the floor with their hands spread.

Before the shooting, at least 20 members of the Cossacks gang can be seen on the patio. Members of the Scimitars, Boozefighters and Leathernecks can also be seen on the tape. While no Bandidos are immediately visible, police and one member of that biker gang have said some of their members were at the event.

The AP was shown the video by representatives of the Twin Peaks franchise, who have said the fighting began outside the restaurant, not inside as police have previously said. The franchise did not release the video publicly, citing the ongoing investigation.

Waco police spokesman Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said police have the video, but he had not seen it and would not discuss its contents.

Authorities on Sunday swept up around 170 bikers who descended on the restaurant. Among those arrested was Theron Rhoten, who had just pulled into the parking lot on his vintage Harley chopper when the bullets started flying.

Rhoten showed up at the Twin Peaks restaurant for a regional motorcycle club meeting. But, according to his wife, he soon found himself in the middle of a deadly shootout involving scores of other bikers.

Katie Rhoten said her husband ran for cover and was later arrested, along with motorcycle-riding friends and other "nonviolent, noncriminal people."

"He's good to his family," she said. "He doesn't drink. He doesn't do drugs. He doesn't party. He's just got a passion for motorcycles."

Police have said that all those arrested were part of criminal motorcycle gangs, but only five of the nine people killed had criminal histories in Texas, based on court records and a search of their names in a database maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

In addition, Manuel Isaac Rodriguez was arrested in 2010 and served probation for unlawfully carrying a weapon at a bar in Lewisville.

Police have acknowledged firing on armed bikers, but it is not clear how many of the dead were shot by gang members and how many were shot by officers.

Authorities have said the gathering of five biker groups was to resolve a dispute over turf. Some bikers dispute that, saying the meeting was organized to discuss laws protecting motorcycle riders and other subjects.

Katie Rhoten said her husband, a mechanic from Austin, called her from jail and said that he and two other members of Vise Grip motorcycle club ducked and ran for cover as the violence raged around them.

The arrested bikers have all been charged with engaging in organized crime and each is being held on $1 million bonds.

The eight members of Theron Rhoten's group, the Vise Grip Club, specialize in building and riding vintage and antique motorcycles, particularly pre-1970 Harley Davidson big twin choppers, according to spokesman Brian Buscemi.

Buscemi said the bimonthly meetings have been happening for 18 years.

"Yes, there was a problem at this scene, and it was absolutely horrific," he said. "But there just also happened to be a significant amount of people there who had nothing to do with it."

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Merchant and Warren reported from Dallas.

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Associated Press National Writer Allen G. Breed contributed to this report.

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