According to a usually informed source, both CNN and The Associated Press are in possession of previously unreleased evidence related to the Twin Peaks Massacre last May.
The evidence has been presented to a grand jury currently convened in McLennan County and includes materials that have not yet been discovered to defense attorneys in the case. The evidence includes an affidavit by a Waco police detective who testified that a Texas Department of Public Safety “covert camera” recorded a member of the Cossacks Motorcycle Club “executing” a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club.
At a bond reduction hearing on June 5, Assistant District Attorney Michael Jarrett referred to the covert camera video and said it showed “Bandidos executing Cossacks and Cossacks executing Bandidos, some at point-blank range.” Jarrett described the video in detail at that hearing. He said it showed Cossacks arriving and occupying the patio of the Twin Peaks then “spreading out across the patio in sentry positions.” Jarrett is leading the grand jury that will decide which of 177 defendants will be indicted for murder, criminal conspiracy and other charges. The covert camera video has not yet been released to defense attorneys in the case.
The usually informed source did not speculate who leaked the evidence but volunteered that although the major news sources have “all of this evidence, they are not reporting anything positive for the Bandidos.”
Ann O’Neill, Ed Lavandera and Jason Morris of CNN have reported that “FBI agents in San Antonio and El Paso picked up intelligence that the Bandidos were planning to go to war with the Cossacks.”
The three CNN reporters also allege that “The Bandidos made a crucial decision on March 27 of this year, moving the regular meeting of the Confederation of Clubs and Independents from Austin to the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco,” and that “Waco police feared, with good cause as it turned out, that the May 17 meeting would trigger violence.”
Coverage of the incident has been so largely dominated by police and Cossack accounts that it is impossible not to suspect an interconnection.
The day after the deadly confrontation, a Cossack named Scott “Scoot” Keon told the Palestine, Texas City Council that his club was law-abiding and the Bandidos were not. “On our side, we are not a gang,” Keon said. “We are an organization that is Texas-wide. None of us are one-percenters.”
Keon blamed the Bandidos for the massacre. “There are things that they (the Bandidos) are involved in that we have no interest in,” he said. “We are businessmen, family men, and veterans and are in no way affiliated with them. We won’t be pressured into paying them dues, and that’s where their anger is coming from. Just because other clubs have given in, doesn’t mean we are going to.”
All published first hand accounts of the massacre in which nine men died and 18 more were hospitalized have relied on statements made by Cossacks.
On May 23, The Washington Post ran a lurid account of the confrontation titled “‘Richie died, then Diesel, then Dog’: An eyewitness to the Waco biker brawl.” The eyewitness was a Cossack who was “president of a North Texas chapter of the motorcycle gang.” According to the well known Washington daily, the single source for the story “asked not to be identified because he is now in hiding and said he fears for his life. He is a rare eye-witness speaking publicly about the Waco massacre.”
On June 20, the Houston Chronicle ran an even more lurid first hand account titled “Life and death in Waco: A biker’s story.” That feature described the Bandido “execution” of Cossack Danny “Diesel” Boyett. The principal source for that story was Boyett’s son Cody Ledbetter. The account describes an unprovoked attack by Bandidos on Cossacks who had come to the Twin Peaks that day to talk peace. The story, by Dane Schiller, states, “A law enforcement officer familiar with the clash at Twin Peaks and well-versed in motorcycle gangs said Ledbetter seems to be telling the truth.”
The recent CNN coverage of the incident has relied on statements made by John Wilson, who is described as “president of the Waco-area chapter of the Cossacks.”
Wilson, not surprisingly, describes the Cossacks as victims of the Bandidos. According to CNN, “many Cossacks and their supporters said they were invited to the meeting and told it had been called to broker peace. Now they’re wondering if they were set up.”
Wilson has described the confrontation on camera, in detail for the cable network that describes itself as “the most trusted name in news.”
“I couldn’t even see who threw the punch. But I saw our guy’s head go back, and it looked like he was getting ready to punch back whoever did it and a shot went off.” Wilson told CNN there were “a couple more shots, some scuffling around and then, almost instantly, gunfire just erupted from all around the perimeter.”
“I promptly got down on that sidewalk trying to avoid being hit myself. At that time it was pretty horrific, there were guys getting hit, falling, and I realized that I needed to get away from where I was. I looked to the guy to my left, a good friend of mine, and said, ‘We need to get off the sidewalk or we are going to die here.’”
None of these dramatic accounts has been viewed skeptically. CNN has not questioned who fired the shots that “erupted from all around the perimeter.”
During a bond hearing, Wilson’s attorney Mike White told Judge Ralph Strother that Waco police “actually advised him to begin a dialogue to try to lower the tension that had been preceding this event (the May 17 Confederation of Clubs and Independents meeting) for numerous weeks…They suggested that he either go to this meeting or start some dialogue or start having sit-downs with opposing motorcycle clubs.”
The police “suggestion” came at least weeks after the Confederation of Clubs and Independents decided to move its meeting from the Twin Peaks in Austin to the Twin Peaks in Waco. Representatives of the Confederation have said the meeting was moved to make it easier for members from the Dallas area to attend. The only basis for the theory that the meeting was moved to Waco to send some sort of message to the Cossacks is police conjecture. If it was meant to be a show of force by the Bandidos it is likely that the Bandidos would have made the Waco event a mandatory run. The whole argument that the Bandidos instigated the confrontation only sounds reasonable to people who know nothing about the very punctilious world of motorcycle clubs..
Most Cossacks, and most members of Cossacks friendly clubs like the Scimitars and Bogatyrs learned about the Twin Peaks run long after police learned that the Confederation would be meeting in Waco.
About March 27
What happened, exactly if not in totality, according to legally obtained police reports, was that the Texas Department of Public Safety learned that the COC&I was coming to Waco on March 27. They learned this from a Lorena, Texas Police Officer named Shawn Board who got his information from confidential sources of information. “Officer Board explained that the COC is run by the Bandido OMG. Officer Board further explained that the COC is where other motorcycle clubs are required to join and pay dues to the Bandido OMG to be able to operate in Texas. Officer Board felt like the change of the meeting location was purposely done to show support for the Bandido OMG in the Waco area to the Cossacks MC.”
How officer Board learned this remains an official secret.
Waco police and DPS agents then made contact with John Wilson on April 16, a month before the Twin Peaks Massacre, and told him that he was in danger.
Let’s Have Brunch
Then, purely by coincidence, 30 – 40 Cossacks as well some number of Scimitars and Bogatyrs arrived at the Twin Peaks well before the scheduled start of the COC&I meeting and stole all the seats and most of the parking spaces. As about a dozen Bandidos and scores of Bandidos supporters rode into the Twin Peaks parking lot, a Cossacks prospect named Clifford Pearce told the pack to find somewhere else to park. Local police were well aware the pack was coming. At 10:30 that morning, Texas DPS agents observed the pack assembling at the Flying J Truck Stop in Waco. Local and state police had assembled a large and heavily armed force, including a Bearcat armored vehicle, to “gather intelligence” at the meeting.
Seconds after Pearce told the Bandidos to park somewhere else he was reinforced by additional Cossacks.
There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. One that hasn’t been reported before describes a man in a yellow full face helmet firing a stainless steel or chrome revolver. The man has never been identified although CNN does possess a photo of a yellow full face helmet sitting in the grass.
The same grand jury that a source identifies as the source of the leaked evidence has also subpoenaed virtually ever imaginable record that might be in the possession of the COC&I including: “All individual members names, club affiliations and any other persons claiming independent status with the COC&I, home addresses, billing, shipping, email and IP addresses, home and alternate telephone numbers for each member and club; a copy of the original applications filed by each past and current member;” “any and all documents relating to the organizational structure of the Texas COC&I and its relation to all other state COC&I’s and/or its relations to a national COC&I organization or US Defenders.”
From up close all of this looks like a witch hunt. But from a longer view much of this, including the recent CNN reports, looks like a smoke screen. Waco and McLennan County have been frantically searching for somebody to blame for the Twin Peaks Massacre since about an hour after it happened.
Officials have blamed this putrid cocktail of death, personal tragedy, cop speak and Bonfire of the Vanities quality journalism on a cabal of “five motorcycle gangs,” who “didn’t come to Waco to eat barbecue;” on the owners of the Twin Peaks Waco franchise; on the dead; on the Confederation of Clubs; on the witnesses; and on the Bandidos.
The stakes are high. There is considerable evidence that local, state and federal law enforcement officials knew of a conflict between the Cossacks and the Bandidos; decided that the Waco Twin Peaks was where that conflict might escalate into something RICO worthy and interesting; encouraged Cossacks to confront Bandidos at the Twin Peaks; surrounded the Twin Peaks with militarized police; set up their cameras; then watched, as in CNN’s memorable phrase, a “parking lot was turned into a raging war zone;” and have been pounding their chests ever since.
The city of Waco, McLennan County, the state of Texas and, possibly, the Department of Justice face potential liabilities of billions of dollars. The Twin Peaks Massacre has not faded from public consciousness with the passing of a few dozen news cycles. This is a big story and it is not going away. Whoever leaked all that evidence to CNN should have known that. November is a sweeps month. The most trusted name in news knows that. And CNN has obviously made the editorial decision to play its leaked documents and videos as sensationally as possible.
Whoever leaked the documents knew how CNN would play this story. Seen in the context of a brisk November day the leak looks like a masterful spinning of the facts. Seen in the context of all that has happened since last May, the leak looks more like an act of desperation.