For a few minutes on Sunday, May 18, 2015, a suburban shopping center in Waco, Texas, was turned into a modern tribute to the city’s Wild West past. The Washington Post reports that a biker brawl erupted into an all-out gunfight at a Twin Peaks franchise there just after the clock struck high noon. Members of rival biker gangs used chains, clubs, brass knuckles, knives, pistols, and even AK-47 assault rifles to go at each other’s throats until the police were able to get control of the situation. When the fighting settled, nine bikers were dead and another 18 people were injured.
When we hear of a biker brawl, you might be quick to assume that it involved the most notorious leather-bound baddies in our popular imagination, the Hells Angels. However, you’d be accused of unfair stereotyping, because as HotCars points out, violent, drug smuggling bikers can do nice things like donate to food banks and take part in the political process, too. Just because they killed one hippie at a Rolling Stones concert decades ago doesn’t mean they’re all bad guys. So check your biker prejudice at the door and let’s take a look at who really was involved in the 2015 Waco biker shoot-out.
The bikers involved in the Waco shoot-out were not in the Hells Angels
As police were aware before the shoot-out, the rivalry that boiled over into violence in Waco that day involved several different biker gangs allied against each other, but none of them were members of the Hells Angels. The L.A. Times reports that the two main rivals that day were called the Cossacks and the Bandidos. Both gangs identify “one percenters,” a biker term that means they consider themselves to be above the law. One unidentified Waco law enforcement official said that members of both gangs wear “one percent” patches on their vests to proudly display how they feel united in their lawlessness. This also means that they are considered willing participants in organized criminal activity.
Though they weren’t involved with this particular kerfuffle, the Hells Angels still consider themselves to be one percenters, and therefore, above the law, a position from which one breaks it, rather than obeys it. While this was by no means Waco’s first shoot-out or siege, Police Sergeant W. Patrick Swanton called the brawl “the most violent crime scene” he had ever been involved in, adding that biker gang crime and violence is an issue that extends far beyond his jurisdiction. “This is not a Waco problem,” he said, “this is a national problem.”
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