The indictments against Glenn Walker and two fellow members of the Bandidos motorcycle club mark the first murder charges filed in connection to the melee that left nine bikers dead, 20 wounded and nearly 200 arrested outside a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.
Investigators say the shooting was sparked by rivalries between the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs ahead of a biker meeting.
Waco police monitoring the gathering said officers opened fire after fights and gunfire broke out in the parking lot.
Walker is accused of fatally shooting Richard Kirschner, a Cossacks member. An autopsy report shows Kirschner was shot three times: once in the buttocks with a pistol and twice with a rifle in the right thigh and left knee.
A pistol registered to Walker and a bullet it fired were recovered from the back of a police vehicle at the scene, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Kirschner's rifle wounds were traced to a Waco SWAT officer's .223-caliber rifle during a forensic firearms analysis conducted for police, according to police records previously reviewed by the AP.
The officer who used the rifle, Michael Bucher, said during an internal investigation that he saw Kirschner chasing another man with a big chain. Bucher said he fired one round and Kirschner fell, but then fired again after he saw Kirschner get up on one knee and swing the chain. The officer said Kirscher then stayed on the ground.
Kirschner later was pronounced dead at a hospital. The autopsy report said only that Kirschner died of gunshot wounds.
Walker's attorney didn't respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.
A grand jury in September 2016 cleared the officer, along with the two other officers who fired their weapons. The police evidence reviewed by the AP showed that two people killed during the shooting were hit only by bullets from law enforcement weapons. Two others killed were hit from Waco SWAT rifles and other firearms.
The other Bandidos members charged with murder Wednesday - Jeff Battey, a local sergeant-at-arms with the motorcycle club, and Ray Allen, the president of the Denton, Texas, chapter of the Bandidos - are accused of fatally shooting Matthew Smith, a Cossacks member who died at the scene from gunshot wounds. Battey, a former Marine, and Allen were seen by officers "triangulated" over Smith, and a pistol was found in front of each man, according to Waco police records.
An autopsy determined Smith suffered gunshot wounds in the abdomen and back. The firearms analysis for police ruled out police rifles. Battey's attorney, Seth Sutton, said Wednesday that prosecutors failed to provide a "full and complete picture of the evidence" to the grand jury.
"We believe that justice will prevail for Mr. Battey and that he will be acquitted of all wrongdoing," Sutton said.
Allen's attorney, Brian Walker, said Allen was acting in self-defense.
He said that when Allen and other Bandidos pulled into the parking lot, "they heard shots ringing out and they had no clue what was taking place. All of a sudden this young guy comes around the corner and starts shooting at them." Walker said Allen shot back.
Glenn Walker, Battey and Allen also face rioting charges. And more than 20 other bikers were re-indicted on new charges Wednesday ranging from rioting to tampering with evidence. The lesser charges came just eight days before the statute of limitations runs out on those crimes - and a day after more than 60 cases were dropped.
The county's district attorney, Abel Reyna, said in a statement Wednesday that the indictments were the result of a review of "numerous videos and other evidence." Surveillance footage showed numerous bikers running from the scene and ducking for cover after gunshots rang out. A smaller number could be seen pointing and firing weapons or throwing punches.
Law enforcement officers recovered dozens of firearms, knives and other weapons from the restaurant and adjacent parking lot. Dash-cam video showed that officers indiscriminately piled many of the weapons on the pavement or tossed them in the back of a police vehicle.
All of the bikers arrested following the shooting nearly three years ago were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, a felony, with the underlying offenses of homicide and aggravated assault. They were held on $1 million bonds in county jail, and Battey was among the first to bail out.
But prosecutors have dropped 154 of the initial 192 cases in the last four months, saying they wanted to focus on those who were "more culpable." Only one biker - Jake Carrizal, a locomotive driver and the president of the Dallas chapter of the Bandidos - has been tried. His trial ended in a hung jury and a mistrial last fall, though he was among the bikers re-indicted on Wednesday. Carrizal is now facing a new charge of rioting.
Reyna said in February, when announcing the first round of disposed cases, that information gleaned during Carrizal's trial was "invaluable" in his office's decision to narrow the focus of its investigation.
USA - BN.