Three police officers involved in the shootout with bikers at a Twin Peaks restaurant last May have been cleared of any wrongdoing, the Waco Police Department announced Wednesday.
“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,” Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said in a statement.
The three officers were publicly identified as Officer Andy O’Neal, a 15-year veteran; Officer Michael Bucher, an 11-year veteran; and Officer Heath Jackson, a 9-year veteran. They were placed on administrative leave following the shooting, as is standard protocol, but after about two months were put on administrative duty.
Following the grand jury’s decision, Interim Police Chief Frank Gentsch released a statement saying the officers will return to full duty immediately.
“These officers acted professional under very difficult circumstances,” Gentsch said. “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.”
The clash between rival biker groups the Bandidos and the Cossacks, along with multiple law enforcement agencies, left nine bikers dead and 18 wounded. The groups, although rivals, were at the restaurant for a scheduled meeting to discuss recent introduced legislation that would affect motorcyclists.
Witnesses say the melee went down in the parking lot after an argument erupted over a parking spot and an apparent feeling of disrespect toward a club president. Within seconds the scene turned to chaos.
Autopsies determined that four of the bikers who died were struck by bullets from a .223-caliber rifle, which was the type of weapon carried by the Waco police officers. However, a whole slew of firearms – 151 to be exact – were recovered from the bikers, including at least a dozen “long guns.” In addition, two of the bikers who were killed were determined to be struck by bullets of other calibers.
According to Brent Stroman, who was the Waco police chief at the time of the shooting, three of his officers fired a total of 12 shots. Altogether, 44 shell casings were recovered at the scene.