Three Waco Swat officers who fired their M-16 style rifles during the May 17, 2015 biker brawl at the Twin Peaks restaurant were “no billed” by a McLennan County grand jury this morning.
Grand juries are peculiar to the United States. The purpose of a grand jury is to examine a prosecutor’s evidence against a person suspected of a crime and determine whether charges should be brought. The institution of the grand jury is widely, and naively, considered to be a check against unscrupulous or overzealous prosecutors. In general, grand juries do what prosecutors tell them to do.
The phrase “no billed” (sometimes the phrase is “ignoramus” or “not a true bill”) is written at the top of the presenting document when the grand jury disagrees with a list of prosecutorial claims called a “bill of particulars.” When a grand jury agrees with the prosecutor’s claims the foreman of the grand jury usually writes “true bill” on top of the list of allegations. When the grand jury agrees with the prosecutor’ claims against a suspect, that suspect is said to be “indicted” and must enter a plea of guilty or innocent.
So far, 154 people have been indicted for participating in an organized criminal conspiracy that resulted in the brawl at the Twin Peaks. Thirty-eight more people were arrested after the brawl but the bills of particulars against them have not yet been presented to a grand jury. So far, none of the 192 people who are not police officers who have faced prosecution have been no billed.
The Swat officers no-billed today were Andy O’Neal, Michael Bucher and Heath Jackson. Nine people died during the 109-second-long brawl. Bucher and Jackson killed at least four of them: Jacob Lee Rhyne, Wayne Lee Campbell, Daniel Raymond Boyett and Richard Vincent Kirshner Jr. According to police reports, O’Neal fired his rifle but ballistics reports obtained by The Aging Rebel suggest that he did not shoot anyone.
According to a report written by Swat Team Leader, Sergeant Vrail George, “Officer Bucher and Officer Jackson had multiple suspects down on the ground. I went to them to check and make sure they were okay. They both told me they were okay. Officer Jackson informed me that they were engaged by gun fire as they exited their marked police unit. Officer Jackson said they both returned fire and struck multiple suspects with their patrol rifles. I visually inspected both officers for any possible injuries, but did not locate any. I continued around the crime scene checking on all Waco officers. I found Office O’Neal sitting in a vehicle close by. He explained to me that he also engaged a suspect with a gun, and that he was physically okay.”
In radio traffic, Bucher was the first Waco officer to report that shots had been fired.
In a report produced five days after the brawl, Waco officer Jeremy S Finch wrote: “Officer Bucher was telling us over the radio that he had shooters that were on the ground still shooting, and that one person was crawling towards our direction and that he still had a gun in his hand.” The statement may describe the death of Daniel Boyett who was shot in the top of the head by both Bucher and Jackson.
After the grand jury found no reason to indict the three officers, Waco Police Information Officer W. Patrick Swanton issued a written statement that said:
“The McLennan County Grand Jury met this morning and completed their review of the Officer Involved Shooting that occurred at Twin Peaks on May 17, 2015. The three officers were “No Billed” in today’s hearing.
“Our department along with numerous local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have worked tirelessly on the still on-going investigation of Twin Peaks. We have completed an exhaustive internal investigation on the officer involved portion of the incident which was reviewed by the Texas Rangers. The three officers have been cleared by the investigation, and the action of the Grand Jury affirms those findings.
“The officers involved in the incident are 15-year Officer Andy O’Neal, 11-year Officer Michael Bucher and 9-year Officer Heath Jackson.
“Interim Chief Frank Gentsch, upon hearing of the Grand Jury decision, stated ‘These officers acted professional under very difficult circumstances. I’m glad to have this caliber of officers protecting our city. I appreciate the job conducted by the Department Investigators, the Texas Rangers, the McLennan County DA’s office and the Grand Jury in this case. I will be returning these officers to full duty immediately.’”