Last Friday, 62 days after the worst incidence of biker violence in history, McLennan County District Judge Ralph Strother gave prosecutors another 30 days to disclose their evidence in the case to defense attorneys. A week before, Strother had named a Waco police detective involved in the investigation foreman of the grand jury that will determine whether the accused should be indicted with a crime or not.
One hundred seventy-seven people have been accused of engaging in organized criminal activity. If indicted and convicted they all face a minimum of 15 years in prison. All of the accused were originally detained on $1 million bail. All but three have since made bail.
Strother agreed to release video shot by the Twin Peaks restaurant to San Antonio attorney Jay Norton. Norton is not subject to a gag order. Strother has also ordered the release of video from pole cameras installed at the Twin Peaks restaurant by the Texas Department of Public Safety sometime before the gunfight on May 17. Strother also agreed to allow defense attorneys to see video shot at the scene by body cameras worn by police who were there.
It is unclear whether defense attorneys will have access to information about any confidential informants who might have participated in the melee; other evidence that would help explain the surveillance of the Twin Peaks; the exact “warnings” given the Twin Peaks management about the dangerous nature of the gathering that day; or an explanation for the presence of a score of police officers and an armored vehicle at the restaurant.
Waco flies off in many directions. The official secrecy that has surrounded the Twin Peaks massacre for more than two months has given rise to widely spread, inane gossip and speculation.
Every disclosure seems to invite another mouthful of bizarre questions. For example, what did the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission know and when did it know it?
Police agencies involved in the prelude and aftermath of the Twin Peaks are known to include the Waco Police Department and McLennan County Sheriff’s Office; the state Texas Department of Public Safety, TABC and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
The morning after the Twin Peaks violence, the TABC released a statement that announced that the Commission “at the request of the Waco Police Department, has issued a seven-day summary suspension for the TABC license of Twin Peaks Restaurant, 4671 South Jack Kultgen Expressway in Waco. The suspension comes after a suspected motorcycle gang shooting that left nine dead and at least 18 people wounded Sunday, May 17.”
“During the suspension, TABC will work with the Waco Police Department to investigate whether the restaurant’s operational or management policies contributed to an atmosphere which allowed the shooting to take place. Any wrongdoing uncovered during the investigation could result in further action against the restaurant, including monetary fines, further suspension, or cancellation of its TABC license to sell alcohol.”
The TABC was already studying the drinking habits of Texas motorcycle enthusiasts. For example, The Aging Rebel has legally obtained a TABC document that begins, “Beth sent me a list of known Bandidos members.” Beth Gray is a TABC officer in Denton, Texas. There are ten names on the list with birth dates and driver’s license numbers.
When contacted about that list today Chris Porter, the TABC press officer, acknowledged seeing the list of names but declined to comment on it because he could not verify its “authenticity.” He added that the TABC is a “law enforcement agency” that “has access to information collected by other” local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that is then disseminated through the “Texas Fusion Center in Austin.” The Austin Fusion Center is one of the places where everything gets fuzzy.
Fusion Center are the visible infrastructure of the federalization of all American policing since September 11, 2001. They are where all domestic intelligence, from U.S. Marshalls’ drone flight photos collected over Texas, to cell phone data collected in Massachusetts, to data collected by license plate readers in Montana goes to hide in a cloud of secrecy and confusion. The Austin Fusion Center even has two names. It is at once A “Primary Fusion center” called the Texas Joint Crime Information Center and a “Recognized Fusion Center” called the Austin Regional Intelligence Center.
According to the boiler plate on its web site, the Texas Fusion Center “is a 24/7 unit that works with federal, state, regional, and local law enforcement and serves as the state repository for homeland security information and incident reporting. It provides real-time intelligence support to law enforcement and public safety authorities, and consolidates information and data on suspicious activities and threats from all jurisdictions and disciplines as well as the public.”
The Center also “supports law enforcement and criminal justice communities by providing analytical case development, as well as strategic and tactical case support to officers regarding criminal organizations, including transnational gangs, drug trafficking organizations, and emerging threats.”
How all the jigsaw puzzle fit together may become more obvious in another 30 days. Or maybe not.