The best place to hide a leaf is in a forest. The best place to hide the truth about what happened in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco is in a confusion of noise. The noise about what happened last May 17 has been coming from three distinct dispute that have been talking over each other for ten months.
First, Waco, McLennan County and Texas have brought criminal charges against 186 people so far. Officials argue that going to the Twin Peaks for brunch wearing the wrong article of clothing was a terrorist act. Apparently – and several police have come right out and said it – the wrong article of clothing was one with any colors or words that indicated that one might have chosen a side in an alleged dispute between the Cossacks and Bandidos Motorcycle Clubs.
Second, some of those 186 criminal defendants argue that their constitutional rights were violated when Waco, McLennan County and Texas irremediably wrecked their lives by accusing them of murder; by disseminating prejudicial and really unflattering photos of them; and by making them pay more money than most people have in their checking accounts in order to get out of a crappy jail. Most of these defendants think they were punished for surviving a disaster devised by someone else.
Virtually ignored in coverage of the case have been the litigations that claim the Twin Peaks restaurant franchise in Waco was to blame.
Waco Police Public Information Officer and McLennan County Sheriff manqué W. Patrick Swanton introduced the notion that the restaurant did it. In his first press conference Swanton said: “We have been made aware here in the past few months of rival biker gangs…rival criminal biker gangs being here and causing issues. We have attempted to work with the local management of the Twin Peaks to get that cut back to no avail. They have not been of much assistance to us. However we continued doing our part on gathering intelligence. Apparently the management wanted them here so we didn’t have any say so on whether they could be here or not. We do know that they are an issue. We do know that they are criminal biker gangs very well known in our area. There were at least three rival gang groups here this morning for whatever reason. As they were here we had officers on scene. We expected issues and because of the problems we had at least twelve Waco officers along with several other DPS (Texas Department of Public Safety) officers that were assisting us in trying…to …maintain security for the perimeter and for the citizens of our area.”
The next day Swanton said, “Management knew there were biker gangs. We have talked with them; asked them to limit the amount of some of that going on; and they have not been much of a help on that. They knew that there were issues. They knew that we were here and that there were going to be additional issues but they continued to let those groups of people into their business.”
The Waco Twin Peaks franchise and its investors have been the correspondents in five opportunistic civil suits. The Don Carlos Restaurant that shared a parking lot with the Twin Peaks is suing for damages to its restaurant business. The family of Waco victim Jesus Delgado Rodriguez is suing the restaurant for wrongful death. Astoundingly Yvonne Reeves, the wife of Owen “Big O” Reeves and mother of Richard Matthew “Chain” Jordan, III joined the wrongful death suit. Two Texas residents identified only as M.K.H. and C.R.H. sued the restaurant for personal injuries. The family of Matthew Mark Smith, a Cossacks sergeant at arms who was shot three times and died at Waco believes the restaurant is responsible for his death. And Cossack Melvin Pattenaude, one of the defendants in the criminal case, is suing both the Waco Franchise and its former franchisor. Front Burner Restaurants. Four of the suits were filed in Dallas, The fifth was filed in Waco.
In response, the restaurant and the franchisor have replied that the damages were caused by “unknown criminal actors and law enforcement.”
Since the cases all originated from the same event, the restaurant wanted them consolidated so the Twin Peaks would only have to defend itself once rather than five times. About two weeks ago, on March 3, Texas Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth Lang-Miers agreed with the Twin Peaks and ruled that all five of these cases could be litigated at the same time in a kind of court called a multidistrict litigation court. Disasters, like plane and train wrecks, are usually tried in MDL courts. And, it is probably accurate to categorize Waco so far as a train wreck.
The consolidation isn’t likely to result in the public disclosure of any of the Twin Peaks Massacre’s many secrets. But it may discourage the lawyers in these suits from spreading quite as much disinformation as they have up until now.
The Twin Peaks franchise in Waco and its employees seem to have also been victims in this case – not victimizers. None of the investors or employees shot, stabbed or clubbed anybody. None of them acted irresponsibly. Reports created after the shootout portrayed the restaurant’s manager as rude to police but that didn’t seem to be an issue before nine people died. The restaurant is only being sued because its owners are rich. Somebody should tell the lawyers in this case that the city of Waco, McLennan County, the state of Texas and the Department of Justice are richer.