About 20 seconds into Arthur Penn’s 1970 film Little Big Man, 121-year-old Jack Crabb announces, “I am the sole white survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn popularly known as Custer’s Last Stand.” Last Saturday, about 12 hours into a long holiday weekend, the Washington Post, a paper known mostly for it’s insightful political gossip and one of America’s half dozen newspapers of record, published a solitary first person account of another massacre – the one in the Twin Peaks restaurant parking lot in Waco on May 17 that resulted in nine deaths, 27 injuries, 17 hospitalizations and something like 178 arrests.
The survivor, unnamed but identified as “president of a North Texas chapter” of the Cossacks “motorcycle gang,” told the Post that about 100 Bandidos materialized at a Texas Region Confederation of Clubs and Independents meeting and immediately lost their minds. The Cossack, the Post explained, “is a rare eye-witness speaking publicly about the Waco massacre.”
The Cossack’s account is plausible and there is a precedent for the tragedy. On September 30, 2012 five Warbird Warlocks (who are a preeminent club in Florida) rode into the Winter Springs, Florida staging area for a charity poker run sponsored by the Harpy Warlocks. The Harpy Warlocks were affiliated with a club that has roots in Philadelphia and included several members who had been expelled from the Warbird Warlocks and one member who had previously shot a Warbird Warlock. The Harpy Warlocks seem to have been convinced that the five Warbird Warlocks were a scout party for a much larger, hostile pack and when the five rode into the staging area the Harpy Warlocks lit them up. Three men died almost immediately and two, who shot back, were wounded but survived. The Harpy Warlocks acted, they later claimed to a man, in self defense. Four men were charged with murder. A jury convicted two of them and found two of them not guilty.
The Florida case was bizarre beyond the general public’s understanding but it was not incomprehensible to people who have some rudimentary knowledge of the motorcycle club world. The Waco massacre is much more difficult for anyone to understand without relying on the sort of stale biker clichés Hunter Thompson tried, and failed, to dispel a half century ago. That is one problem with the Post’s story. Tim Madigan and Kevin Sullivan, the feature story’s main authors are naïve.
The unnamed Cossack’s account is layered with and given the same credibility as ludicrous statements made by Waco police spokesman W. Patrick Swanton. The Post also has discovered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives report, “OMGs and the Military 2014,” which was published last July 1 and first reported here last July 11. The Bandidos are mentioned 26 times in the report. The Cossacks are not mentioned once. The Iron Order, the “law abiding motorcycle club” is mentioned eight times. The Post uses the ATF report to substantiate a claim by the Waco police that “the Bandidos, the most notorious biker gang in Texas,” are arming themselves “with grenades and C4 explosives.” Not some Bandidos but “the Bandidos.”
The Post’s story raises at least as many questions as it answers.
For example, the Post states that two large packs of outlaw bikers travelled to Waco. The Post says there were 70 Cossacks and 100 Bandidos but it neglects to mention how many Texas Highway Patrol cruisers and how many Texas Department of Public Safety helicopters followed the packs. Anyone who has ever ridden in a large pack probably has the same question. Where were the helicopters? Where were the police who followed the big packs into the Central Texas Market Place shopping center?
According to the Post, the Bandidos made a disturbance at and shot up their own event. Whether the Bandidos is the preeminent club in Texas or not, the club thinks it is. The COCI meeting had at least the tacit approval of the Bandidos and most one percenter motorcycle clubs in the world, when placed in a similar situation, would assume responsibility for keeping the event violence free.
According to the Post: “A Bandido with a patch identifying him as sergeant-at-arms of the same chapter threw a punch at Richard Matthew Jordan II, 31, known as ‘Richie,’ who was from Pasadena, Tex. Jordan punched the guy back. ‘“At that point in time, the sergeant in arms shot Richie point-blank,’ the Cossack said.”
Really? In front of at least 22 sworn peace officers? In broad daylight? In a location that was obviously well-surveilled by video cameras?
“Then all the Bandidos standing in the parking lot started pulling guns and shooting at us,” the Cossack chapter president told the Post. Really? Without a thought to what their legal defense would be? In broad daylight in front of numerous police?
The anonymous Cossack told the Post, “Three of our guys went down instantly. They caught a couple more that tripped and fell, and Bandidos were shooting at them.” In other words, the police stood and watched as Bandidos executed five Cossacks? Does that pass the smell test?
Presumably, the Post verified that its anonymous source was actually a Cossack club officer and an eyewitness. But it is unclear how he escaped and it is equally unclear how and why he started talking to a freelance writer named Tim Madigan.
The Post’s story reads like a federal racketeering indictment so the biggest question of all is whether the source is working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Has he been debriefed by the ATF? Is he under arrest now? Is he working for the government now? Was he working for the government eight days ago? Why is this man talking?