Texas officials under scrutiny for biker shootout case

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WACO, Texas (AP) — The secrecy that enshrouds the investigation into a biker shootout in May that left nine people dead led to the mass-arrest of 177 people is hardly surprising in this city, where public scrutiny is rare and unwelcome.

On the banks of the Brazos River in Central Texas, Waco and the surrounding county are largely run by a close-knit circle of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement that defense lawyers complain leads local agencies to close ranks in the aftermath of this most recent calamity.

It's a city where a district judge and district attorney are former law partners, the mayor is the son of a former mayor, the sheriff comes from a long line of lawmen and Waco pioneers and the sheriff's brother is the district attorney's chief investigator.

Here are some images from the crime scene:

35 PHOTOS
Waco, Texas biker shooting, motorcycle club
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Texas officials under scrutiny for biker shootout case
Authorities investigate a shooting in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant Sunday, May 17, 2015, in Waco, Texas. Authorities say that the shootout victims were members of rival biker gangs that had gathered for a meeting. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)
WACO, TX - MAY 18: Motorcyles sit in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant, the scene of a motorcyle gang shootout, May 18, 2015 in Waco, Texas. A shootout between rival biker gangs began in the afternoon May 17, led to nine dead, many injured and 170 arrerested. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
FILE - In this May 17, 2015 file photo, authorities investigate a shooting in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant, in Waco, Texas. Six witnesses say they heard a few pistol shots before automatic fire took over during a shootout last month at a Waco Twin Peaks restaurant. Police have acknowledged firing on armed bikers, but say they cannot address how many of the nine dead and 18 wounded were shot by bikers and how many were shot by officers. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson, File)
Law enforcement continue to investigate the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Waco, Texas, where nine were killed Sunday and over a dozen injured. About 170 gang members charged with engaging in organized crime are each being held on a $1 million bond and authorities say charges of capital murder are expected in the wake of the Central Texas shooting. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)
People stand as officers investigate a shooting in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant Sunday, May 17, 2015, in Waco, Texas. Authorities say that the shootout victims were members of rival biker gangs that had gathered for a meeting. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)
WACO, TX - MAY 18: Law enforcement officials stands at the scene of a motorcyle gang shootout theTwin Peaks restaurant May 18, 2015 in Waco, Texas. A shootout between rival biker gangs began in the afternoon May 17, led to nine dead, many injured and 170 arrerested. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Law enforcement continue to investigate the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Waco, Texas, where 9 were killed Sunday and over a dozen injured. Waco police on Monday announced the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission closed Twin Peaks for a week amid safety concerns. (AP Photo, Jerry Larson)
FILE - In this May 17, 2015 file photo, authorities investigate a shooting in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas. Police shot bikers in the deadly shootout that erupted last spring outside a Texas restaurant, though it remains unclear if their bullets caused any of the nine fatalities, according to evidence reviewed by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson, File)
Police detain and watch members of various motorcycle clubs outside the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, Sunday, May 17, 2015. A shootout among rival motorcycle gangs at a popular Texas restaurant left nine bikers dead and more than a dozen injured, a police spokesman said Sunday. (AP Photo/John L. Mone)
Authorities investigate a shooting in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant Sunday, May 17, 2015, in Waco, Texas. Authorities say that the shootout victims were members of rival biker gangs that had gathered for a meeting. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)
Authorities investigate a shooting in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant Sunday, May 17, 2015, in Waco, Texas. Authorities say that the shootout victims were members of rival biker gangs that had gathered for a meeting. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)
WACO, TX - MAY 18: Waco Police Department Public Affairs Officer Sgt. Patrick Swanton gives a press conference in front of the Twin Peaks restaurant May 18, 2015 in Waco, Texas. A shootout between rival biker gangs began in the afternoon May 17, led to nine dead, many injured and 170 arrerested. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton addresses the media as law enforcement continues to investigate the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Waco, Texas, where nine were killed Sunday and over a dozen injured. About 170 gang members charged with engaging in organized crime are each being held on a $1 million bond and authorities say charges of capital murder are expected in the wake of the Central Texas shooting. (AP Photo, Jerry Larson)
Police detain and watch members of various motorcycle clubs near a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, Sunday, May 17, 2015. A shootout among rival motorcycle gangs at the popular Texas restaurant left nine bikers dead and more than a dozen injured, a police spokesman said Sunday. (AP Photo/John L. Mone)
This combination of booking photos provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows people arrested during the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas on Sunday, May 17, 2015. Top row from left; Ray Allen, Brian Brincks, Salvador Campos, Richard Cantu and David Cepeda. Middle row from left; Bohar Crump, James David, James Devoll, Matthew Folse and Juan Garcia. Bottom row from left; Mario Gonzalez, James Gray, Jim Harris, Michael Herring and Tommy Jennings. (McLennan County Sheriff's Office via AP)
This combination of booking photos provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows people arrested during the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas on Sunday, May 17, 2015. Top row from left; Jonathan Lopez, Richard Luther, Michael Lynch, Sandra Lynch, Eleazar Martinez and Tom Mendez. Middle row from left; Marshall Mitchell, Diego Obledo, Danny Oehlert, Larry Pina, Jerry Pollard and Jimmy Pond. Bottom row from left; Clayton Reed, Rolando Reyes, Sergio Reyes, Kyle Smith, Jimmy Spencer and Blake Taylor. (McLennan County Sheriff's Office via AP)
This booking photo provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows Martin Lewis. Lewis, a retired San Antonio police detective, was among about 170 people arrested during the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, Sunday, May 17, 2015. (McLennan County Sheriff's Office via AP)
This combination of booking photos provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows people arrested during the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, Sunday, May 17, 2015. Top row from left to right; Jorge Salinas, Bobby Samford, Phillip Sampson, Andrew Sandoval and Timothy Satterwhite. Second row from left to right; Trey Short, Phillip Smith, Seth Smith, Seth Smith and Christopher Stainton. Third row from left to right; James Stallings, Andrew Stroer, Bradley Terwilliger, Michael Thomas and Christian Valencia. Fourth row from left to right; Jose Valle, Royce Vanvleck, James Venable, John Vensel and Justin Waddington. Fifth row from left to right; Daryle Walker, Glenn Walker, Steven Walker, Ronald Warren and Reginald Weathers. (McLennan County Sheriff's Office via AP)
This combination of booking photos provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows people arrested during the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, Sunday, May 17, 2015. Top row from left to right: Edward Keller, Lawrence Kemp, Michael Kenes, Drew King and Jeremy King. Second row from left to right: Richard Kreder, Thomas Landers, Jarrod Lehman, Martin Lewis and Brian Logan. Third row from left to right: Narciso Luna, David Martinez, John Martinez, Josh Martin and Terry Martin. Fourth row from left to right: Benjamin Matcek, Joseph Matthews, Wesley McAlister, Dustin McCann and Billy McRee. Fifth row from left to right: Rudy Mercado, Juventino Montellano, Michael Moore, Jason Moreno and John Moya. (McLennan County Sheriff's Office via AP)
This combination of booking photos provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows people arrested during the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, Sunday, May 17, 2015. Top row from left to right: Noe Adame, William Aikin, John Arnold, Ronald Atterbury and Colter Bajovich. Second row from left to right: Owen Bartlett, Jeff Battey, Michael Baxley, Timothy Bayless and Richard Benavides. Third row from left to right: Burton Bergman, Ronnie Bishop, Mitchell Bradford, Robert Bucy and Kenneth Carlisle. Fourth row from left to right: Aaron Carpenter, Christopher Carrizal, Jason Cavazos, Rene Cavazos and Nathan Champeau. Fifth row from left to right: Michael Chaney, Matthew Clendennen, Lindell Copeland, Greg Corrales and Roy Covey. (McLennan County Sheriff's Office via AP)
This combination of booking photos provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows people arrested during the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, Sunday, May 17, 2015. Top row from left to right: Eliodoro Munguia, Doss Murphy, Robert Nichols, Jeremy Ojeda and Joseph Ortiz. Second row from left to right: Anthony Palmer, Melvin Pattenaude, Julie Perkins, Daniel Pesina and Ares Poinix. Third row from left to right: Marcus Pilkington, Anders Ramirez, Kevin Rash, David Rasor and William Redding. Fourth row from left to right: Jacob Reese, Owen Reeves, Theron Rhoten, Kristoffer Rhyne and Robert Robertson. Fifth row from left to right: Craig Rodahl, Christopher Rogers, George Rogers, James Rosas and Gregory Salazar. (McLennan County Sheriff's Office via AP)
This combination of booking photos provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows people arrested during the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, Sunday, May 17, 2015. Top row from left to right: John Craft, Ryan Craft, Richard Dauley, Marco Dejong and Jason Dillard. Second row from left to right: Richard Donias, Christopher Eaton, Brian Eickenhorst, James Eney and Morgan English. Third row from left to right: William English, Nate Farish, Don Fowler, Justin Garcia and Lawrence Garcia. Fourth row from left to right: Lance Geneva, Nathan Grindstaff, Valdemar Guajardo, John Guerrero and Bryan Harper. Fifth row from left to right: Arley Harris, Raymond Hawes, Jarron Hernandez, Daniel Johnson and Edgar Kelleher. (McLennan County Sheriff's Office via AP)
This combination of booking photos provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows people arrested during the motorcycle gang related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, Sunday, May 17, 2015. Top row from left to right: Ester Weaver, Walter Weaver, Mark White, John Wiley and Jacob Wilson. Second row from left to right: John Wilson, Gregory Wingo, Michael Woods, Ricky Wycough and Gage Yarborough. Third row from left to right: Lawrence Yager, Matthew Yocum and Gilbert Zamora. (McLennan County Sheriff's Office via AP)
DEVELOPING: 9 dead and multiple injuries following a shooting at a restaurant in Waco, Texas http://t.co/HLMqbIyPXY http://t.co/o3dXIzP37b
WACO SHOOTING: -9 Dead -Several Arrested -3 Crime Scenes -Police Fear Retaliation MORE: http://t.co/RzvgzFUeIS … http://t.co/1Ij8pf8lzV
UPDATE: Nine reported dead in #Waco restaurant melee involving #motorcycle gangs http://t.co/8wm6eD224w http://t.co/U79eB50Obl
Anarchy in Waco. Nine dead in Twin Peaks biker shooting. #khou11 http://t.co/DsJtlcCpq4 Photo: @KCENNews http://t.co/mzoSKet8jH
BREAKING! Multiple FATALITIES from biker gang SHOOTOUT in Waco, Texas: Apparently there has been a sh... http://t.co/P3A5kIZSU7 #mcgnews
Multiple people dead in Waco after argument between rival biker gangs ends in shootout http://t.co/GmRrDr4g3z via Mashable
Nine dead, others injured in Waco biker brawl http://t.co/5zkVJX0BOP http://t.co/235iKhqUhY
9 dead in Waco, TX shooting. 3 rival biker gangs open fire against each other in parking lot. http://t.co/hVvPdpaOFt http://t.co/M7IqHQwNpN
BREAKING: 9 dead, others injured after shooting between rival biker gangs in Waco, TX>> http://t.co/8VQEjDDA6r http://t.co/cnPyYjtDY6
RT CBSNews "BREAKING: Several killed in shootout between rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas, police say - … http://t.co/9L9FeRsLKe"
9 dead in Texas restaurant shootout http://t.co/10EVfoFBTJ
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Bikers and public watchdogs have criticized authorities here for how they've handled the investigation, citing the mass arrests in which people were held for days or weeks on $1 million bonds without sufficient evidence to support such actions four months after the shootings.

No formal charges have been made, and it remains unclear whose bullets, including police bullets, struck the dead and injured, or when cases will be presented to a grand jury, which is currently led by a Waco police detective.

"I don't know of any defense lawyer who hasn't looked at the facts of this case and gasped," said Grant Scheiner, a criminal defense attorney in Houston not connected to the bikers' case.

Waco police, McLennan County prosecutors and judges refused to comment — citing a gag order written by the DA — but law enforcement staunchly defend their actions, including the 12 shots that the police chief said officers fired into the melee after bikers allegedly opened fire on them.

The violence erupted May 17 before a meeting of a coalition of motorcycle clubs that advocates rider safety. Police have said two rival biker gangs got into a confrontation that turned deadly when one group of bikers opened fire on another outside a Twin Peaks restaurant.

Some 177 people were arrested and remained in custody until their bonds were reduced. Defense attorneys have been critical of how the cases have been processed, accusing District Attorney Abel Reyna of writing "fill-in-the-blank" arrest affidavits. A police officer testified a justice of the peace approved the affidavits without making any individual determination of probable cause.

In the criminal case of one of the defendants, Reyna's former law partner, District Judge Matt Johnson, issued a gag order as written by Reyna.

Many bikers who previously told The Associated Press they were innocent bystanders are now reluctant to speak further because of the gag order.

Although police and the district attorney described last spring everyone who was taken into custody as criminals, an Associated Press review of a Texas Department of Public Safety database found no convictions listed under the names and birthdates of more than two-thirds of those arrested.

Justifying the mass arrests, Sheriff Parnell McNamara said, "A message was sent to the whole country that we will not tolerate this type of disorder in our community."

McNamara describes the county's criminal justice system as a close-knit Christian "posse" of Baylor University graduates committed to "putting away as many hard-core criminals as possible."

That kind of mentality led the county's former district attorney, John Segrest, to compare the McLennan County criminal justice system to a "bubble, a separate realm. When you're a member of the system, you tend to think that most everything revolves around anything that you do. You get an unrealistic view of the world from inside."

The city's crown jewel is Baylor, the world's largest Baptist university, which in the 1880s attracted Baptists from across Texas to Waco, then known as the buckle of the Bible Belt. The private university has an air of insularity that extends to the county courthouse, a domed palace whose Lady Justice lost her arm holding scales in a storm.

From a series of Ku Klux Klan lynchings nearly a century ago to a massive twister in 1953 that tore through downtown to the Branch Davidian siege in 1993, Waco's downtown streets, a mix of historic mansions, public buildings, dilapidated houses and empty spaces where nothing was rebuilt reflect a city perpetually recovering from its last disaster.

Sheriff McNamara, the descendent of one of Waco's early settlers, was formerly a U.S. marshal who participated in the Branch Davidian siege in which federal agents tried to arrest cult leader David Koresh for stockpiling weapons at a ranch outside town. The confrontation led to a 51-day standoff that ended when the complex caught fire, killing Koresh and nearly 80 followers.

The international attention brought by the tragedy left Waco residents wary of outside law enforcement, and they say they'll handle the biker shootout themselves.

"Waco's nickname is Six-Shooter Junction," McNamara said. "Not really anything we're real proud of, but that's just the way it is."

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