Are Police Making a Scapegoat for Waco Gang Violence?

A restaurant is being permanently shut down after police criticized it for some responsibility in the Waco gang violence.

You have probably seen headlines about the big gang war in Waco, Texas. One of the casualties seems to be a restaurant and the jobs of everyone who worked there.

Why? Somehow it is supposed to have contributed to the Waco gang violence. As the Washington Post reported:

Bodies were still lying uncovered in the Twin Peaks parking lot, where guns and knives littered the asphalt and blood was still pooling, when Waco police Sgt. Patrick Swanton stepped before reporters  Sunday and said something few were expecting: The brazen biker-gang shootout that erupted in the shopping center “could have all been avoided.”

Perhaps more shocking, Swanton revealed, was the extent to which local law enforcement and restaurant management anticipated that a bloody battle between rival biker gangs was brewing.

“We have been made aware in the last few months of rival biker gangs — rival criminal biker gangs — being here and causing issues,” Swanton said Sunday outside the sports bar-turned-crime scene. “We have attempted to work with the local management of Twin Peaks to get that cut back, to no avail. They have not been of much assistance to us.”

The Waco franchise was heavily criticized by authorities after the sports bar packed with rival biker gangs — and police — erupted in violence and turned the Central Texas Market Place into what Swanton called “the most violent crime scene I have ever been involved in” with “blood everywhere” and weapons and shell casings, too.

OK, maybe that is true. But it sounds like the claims were made rather quickly. Furthermore, while restaurants want to make money from customers, and gang members could provide such money, they aren’t known for risking violence and death on their property or in the immediate area. Gang violence can cut into the bottom line.

[See also, “The Claim of Racist Police Doesn’t Explain Freddie Gray.”]

For what it is worth, the restaurant released a statement:

We are working hard to learn the facts about the violence that occurred outside our Waco restaurant yesterday, and that process has just begun. We are horrified by this violence and express our deepest sympathy to all those impacted by it.

It is important to clarify that, to the best of our knowledge, law enforcement officials did not ask either the Waco restaurant operator (with whom they spoke several times) or the Twin Peaks franchisor to cancel the patio reservation that was made on Sunday. Based on the information to date, we also believe that the violence began outside in the area of the parking lot, and not inside our restaurant or on our patio, as has been widely reported.

We are disappointed that the franchisor, Twin Peaks, made a sudden decision to cancel our Waco franchise before all of the facts are learned. We will continue to assist the authorities in any way possible that will assist in their efforts to bring the wrongdoers to justice.

Some Key Facts:

–The Sunday afternoon event at the Waco restaurant was not a Bike Night. The Sunday event was a regular patio reservation made by a female customer who has been to the restaurant previously. 

–The last Bike Night had taken place at the restaurant last Thursday, May 14, without incident. The Waco restaurant has hosted seven Bike Nights since last fall (four this spring) without altercations such as this. Twin Peaks, as a brand, has hosted many community-oriented Bike Nights, not only in Waco, but throughout the country in other locations, as do many other restaurants and organizations. 

–We verified with the Twin Peaks franchisor that no one from law enforcement ever told them we should consider canceling the reservation that was booked for our patio on May 17 (or the biker night on Thursday the 14th).

–Our restaurant general manager and two franchisee operators spoke with law enforcement officials on several occasions before May 17. Contrary to what is being widely reported, as best as we can determine at this time, no one from law enforcement ever told them to cancel the Sunday patio reservation.

[…]

–We are working with a third party video surveillance vendor to provide restaurant video footage in a format requested by law enforcement.

[…]

We are in the process of gathering additional facts, and urge that people avoid rushing to judgment before those facts are fully known.

So, it seems to me we need to wait and see. We don’t know if someone at the restaurant did something stupid or if the police are looking for someone to blame.

For the record, I’m not endorsing anything about the Twin Peaks restaurant. It seems to operate as just another Hooters type of place. It isn’t the kind of place I would do business with. But that doesn’t mean I assume they are guilty of being irresponsible  about gang violence.