“Somebody planted the sonuvabitch.”
That was one organizer’s immediate assessment after abomb threat forced about 75bikers and supporters to disperse from in front of the McLennan County courthouse Saturday morning. The bikers had organizeda memorial for the nine people killed at the Twin Peaks shooting in Waco three months ago, butthe gathering wasalso supposed to serveas something of a rally forthe 177 bikers arrested that day. But now, thanks to a suspicious cooler and a suitcase, the group dissolved.
Clint Broden, the lawyer most publicly associated with the case, was scheduled to speak. And from the sounds of it,Broden’s address could’vebeen illuminating if he’d had the chance to give it—”I will have a lot to say soon, I have been saving it up,” he promised on the event flyer.
It’s still unclear what happened on May 17. Most of the national attention the shootout between cops and bikersgarnered focused on the two clubs involved, the Bandidos and the Cossacks—essentiallyturning into PR campaigns for both sides, with law enforcement and bikers offeringtwovery different interpretations of biker culture.
There appears to have been something of a turf war between the ruling Bandidos and the upstart Cossacks, but of the 177 arrested, few had any criminal convictions in Texas. But it’s certainly clear law enforcementhad their eye on the Bandidos and the Cossack, having issued a bulletin warning about escalating violence between the two clubs in Texas. The animosity, and sometimes outright wars, betweenoutlaws and thelawmen,has beenraging since bikers first hit the road shortly after World War II. Confrontations between clubswith cops are well documented (see: Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels). Police have contended that biker gangs run drugs, among other illegal activities. As biking culture has become more mainstream, bikers have argued that their clubs are just that — a groupin whichlike-minded people can talk shop and do what they love.
Details about what happened during this specific shooting, and the subsequent legal issues, are slim. Much of the scarcity ofinformation can be attributed to the courts, whichhave a gag order in place for all parties involved in the proceedings. The order has been officially protested by a group of sixteen media organizationsand is currently in legal limbo, awaiting a decision from the TexasCourt of Criminal Appeals.
But that hasn’t put the brakes on personal investigations by club bikers and supporters, which have resulted in a budding patch of uneasy theories. From the conversations at the McLennan courthouse, it’sclear the bikers havedeveloped their own narrative forwhat really happened, one in line withfamiliar anti-establishment types. For instance, there were T-shirts that referred to the incident as the “Waco Massacre.” And this one:
And there was this couple. When I asked what they were looking at, they said they were trying to figure out how many people were on top of the ALICO, a 22-story building towering over the main square. The suggestion was that there was police surveillance up there (somebody was up on the roof, that’s for sure). Possibly a sniper.
It sounds fantastical, but that’s one of more consistentaspects of the bikers’ explanation ofwhat happened at Twin Peaks. In a nutshell, their story is thatthe cops planned the whole operation.It was a turkey shoot, they say.
After the bomb threat, the gatherersquickly dispersed (and prettyquietly, for bikers). Some reportedly left town immediately, some congregated in areas just down the street from the courthouse, and others met at the local Harley-Davidson store. I followed John Bostick to Twin Peaks, where a group of about a dozen had gathered.
Bostick, a national administrator for 2 Million Bikers to D.C.who lives in Athens, had organized the twenty-strong crew that rode down from Arlington following an empty white hearse. The group formed in 2013 for two reasons—to “commemorate 9/11 victims and military veterans,” but also to protest the American Muslim Political Action Committee’s . . .rally on the National Mall,” according toTime magazine. As gatherers milledaround theTwin Peaks parking lot, the Confederate flag came up, with one biker positingthat banning it is destroying history, and that even a black friend he knows isn’t offended by it; anotherdiscussed how, contrary to the official story,authorities had actually used explosives during the Waco siege of 1993 with the Branch Dividians. The gatheredgroup doesn’t always have views that the mainstream finds particularly sympathetic.
“Matthew Mark Smith was there,” said Cara Edberg, pointing to the sidewalk behind the now-shuttered Twin Peaks. “You wanna know where people were? I found all nine bodies.” The club supporter had traveled from her home in Longview, Cossack territory, and was guiding others to the spot behind the restaurant where 27-year-old Cossack memberMatthew Mark Smithdied from gunshot wounds to the stomach and back.
In a way, Smith was beingmourned. But as people gatheredaround Twin Peaks, he seemed to also be arepresentationof something larger, a catalyst for supporters’ anger, pain, and frustration.
Edberg kept usingMatthew Mark Smith’s full name. Said repeatedly, it had the ring of a mourners’ mantrato it. Bending down to the placewhere the bullet went into the metal siding, people examined it meticulously,expertly. They kept judging the trajectory of the bullets like members of a forensics team on some TV procedural. Everyonewasfairly quiet, a bit somber,as they circled the building, inspecting the bullet holes dug into the rock walland concrete.
“Tell me that bullet hole didn’t come from a high-powered rifle,” said one womanevaluating the crime scene. “Oh hell yeah, it did,” another woman responded. Young kids ran back and forth between the parking lot and the side of the building, repeating the names of the dead.
Mary “Betty Boop” Rodriguez stood beside bullet holes in the concrete, marking the place65-year-oldPurple Heart recipient Jesus Delgado Rodriguez had been shot and killed. Watery-eyed and mostly silent, the widow was surrounded by family. “Mohawk” and “Betty Boop” had been married for forty years.
“I’ve got a couple of the widows that I speak to,” said Edberg. “You know, this is hard; this is a really hard time. They were regular guys. They had families and grandkids on the way.” And the sorrow is turning into bitterness, among other things. “It feels to us almost, like, they portrayed us as trash. Like, we don’t deserve any kind of respect. And that really hurts. I lost my fiancé [who was in a biker club] four years ago. These bikers, they’re all I know. They took care of me and my family. They held me up.”
Anger and the desire for justice seem to be holding the community up too. The bikers explain how a supposed sniper,using a high-powered firearm with a sound suppressor, was atop the adjacent Don Carlos restaurant. And there are plenty of other theories about the incident. On the radio, officers could allegedlybe heard saying, “the A side” and “the B side,” of the Twin Peaks building, clear signs, according to Bostick, that they’d “been all over this on the chalkboard for two months [prior].”
Bostick went on to explain part of an hour-long video that’s been making the rounds on the Internet, silent surveillance footage from Don Carlos. One biker was tied and left under the care of a single SWAT member for over an hour before being let go—the cops’s inside man, said Bostick. Then,Bostick pulled up a 59-second cell phone video taken from inside Don Carlos. “If you listen to it, right off the bat, you heartch-phff,tch-phff,tch-phff.“ That noise, he said, were the “sniper rounds with a suppressor. . . . They started pickin’ them off.” I listened to the video, puttingmy ear close to his phone. I think I heard it.
Some of these claims seem plausible enough, or, at the very least,not entirely unreasonable. Maybe a couple are hard to follow, and there are aspects to the case that even the bikers disagree about.But the fact is, the lack of official informationleaves bikers with only their theories and their anger. Even respected legal writers arefrustrated with how things are progressing. At Above the Law, law professorTamara Tabo laid out exactly why“You Haven’t Heard More About The 177 Bikers Arrested In Waco” (fun fact: the original judge who had set the sweeping, $1 million bail for all thosearrested is a former state trooper who thought it was“important to send a message”). And the acclaimed criminaljustice blog Grits for Breakfast (recently profiled in Texas Monthly) has highlighted the fact thatthe “randomly” chosen jury foremanisa current Waco police detective.
So had the cooler planted to break up the memorial, or was it just a coincidence? The bikers’knee-jerk suspicion might besignificantlydecreased if authorities had been treating this case with transparency. Confusion and panic during and immediately after the incident were real, and the courts putting everyone inlockdown mode makes some sense (newspapers warnedthe apocalypse was about to reign down, a horde of bikers en route to the scene). Since the beginning, authorities have advised against listening to what they call conspiracy theories, telling reporters,“We can’t wait to show you what truly happened.” But afterthree months basic questions about the incidentstill aren’t being answered, and they should be. Because for the family and friends of the nine dead and the 177 arrested, nothing about this series of eventshas been easy. Just awful.
Follow Jeff Winkler on Twitter or email himhere.
In short, leaning the bike allows there to be a gravitational torque to balance the torque from the fake force. Leaning prevents you from falling over.Why do bikers ride side by side? ›
The main reason that cyclists ride side by side is for safety. First off, a group of cyclists riding two abreast will be easier to see for drivers, making it less likely that they will be hit from behind, but the main reason is to make sure that drivers give them enough room when overtaking.Why do bikers go on the road? ›
Originally Answered: Why do bikes insist on riding in the road instead of the sidewalk or shoulder? Because sidewalks and shoulders are not designed for bikes. Sidewalks are designed for people to walk on. People who use them travel at about 3 or 4 miles per hour; bikes travel at 15 to 20 miles per hour.Why do bikers show two fingers down? ›
This is a way of expressing respect towards the other motorcyclist. It's our way of saying, “Hello! Keep the rubber side down, keep both wheels on the ground”. It signifies that the rider is wishing the fellow rider to stay safe and ride safe.What does it mean when a biker puts up two fingers? ›
The rider was acknowledging the driver's considerate safe driving efforts while the motorcycle passed. … The two-finger salute is actually a peace sign. That's how we motorcyclists wave to say thank you for making room for us to split lanes.Why do cops always pull over bikers? ›
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulates pollution emissions from all motorcycles in California. California makes it illegal to alter any parts or accessories on a pollution-controlled vehicle that is related to the vehicle's emission.
This is helps to slow the bike and it allows the upper body to absorb some of the force generated under hard braking. Because the knee is out during the braking phase, there will also be a minute amount more drag on that side of the rider.
You may feel inclined to honk your horn to announce that you are behind a cyclist or to let them know that you will attempt to pass them. You might also honk because you're frustrated with the cyclist on the road.Why do bikers wave to other bikers? ›
It's simply a way of showing camaraderie with other riders. A wave or nod is our special way of saying hello and showing solidarity. Motorcyclists are often outnumbered on the road, so it's nice when riders show that we have each other's backs.Why do street bikers flip their plates? ›
First, in the internet age, people do not want others to photograph their bikes and post their license plates online. Another reason might be that the motorcyclist is hiding their plates from law enforcement, as the plates might be fraudulent or they might be doing something else wrong.
Forward leaning places the majority of the rider's weight on the bars, leading to a more uniform pressure distribution among the front and rear wheels. This improves steering as well as braking at higher speeds and increases the traction of the front tire.What is the bikers code? ›
Your fellow riders are not bound by immutable Biker Laws to stop and see if you're alright when you're parked on the side of the road. It doesn't matter where your helmet is placed, or even if you have it pushed deep inside your colon. If you're visibly in distress and waving people down, then sure, I will stop.What does it mean when a biker puts his left fist up? ›
Biker Code Hand Signals: Indicate To Turn Right
In the image below, you can see that the biker code hand signal for a right turn is to hold your left fist up with your arm at a 90-degree angle.
The "Biker Wave", the greeting between motorcyclists, is well known to us: it is a gesture of recognition, of friendship, which we do because we are part of a community, accomplices even without knowing each other. The basic concept is "Hello two-wheeled brother.What does 86 mean in the biker world? ›
Eighty-six or 86 is American English slang used to indicate that an item is no longer available, traditionally from a food or drinks establishment, or referring to a person or people who are not welcome in the premises.What does it mean when a biker puts his helmet on the ground? ›
The universal sign of distress when your motorcycle is broke down on the side of a road. All motorcyclists know that putting the helmet on the ground is bad luck,what not everyone knows is that:the helmet on the ground is the international sign of help from biker code (Biker).How do you tell a biker theres a cop? ›
Let your fellow riders know about police activity up the road by patting the top of your helmet with your left palm. Keep our communities' police officers and other first responders safe. Use caution and respect all laws when riding your motorcycle.
Even fairly likely. Many police departments have policies that restrict pursuit of motorcycles due to the potential danger to the public. It is a lot less likely to outrun many cops. They have radios, and they talk to each other.Why do cops touch the side of your car? ›
The gesture is part of a protocol used in the United States, among other countries. The police officer approaches the trunk of the car on the driver's side and places one hand on the back end. By doing so, they ensure that the trunk is closed and that no one will jump out of it.What is a biker's arm? ›
Rider's arm, also referred to as biker's arm, is quite a common injury in motorcycle crashes. This kind of injury occurs when the upper arm nerves are damaged, typically when a rider's motorbike falls on their arm in an accident. Rider's arm injuries aren't caused by one specific type of motorbike accident.
A motorcycle intercom is a device that allows riders to communicate with each other while riding. The device consists of a microphone, a speaker, and a wireless connection that enables communication between the riders. Some intercoms even allow for connection to a phone, GPS or music player.Why do bikers ice their hands? ›
You can also buy a throttle lock which can help on longer trips, much like a cruise control would on a car. It will still allow you to make quick changes. Applying ice over the hand after a long trip will help decrease the inflammatory response of the hand tendons.Why do bikers rev at lights? ›
Why do bikers, mainly cruisers, rev their engines so many times while stopped at a red light? It indicates, in carburettor days, that the cycle is so highly tuned it is unable to idle.Why do motorcyclists tilt their heads? ›
WHY DO RIDERS LEAN? Simply put riders lean so they can turn their bike, but there's a bit more to it. A motorcycle requires the rider's momentum to make a turn, but also to keep balance. Riders lean with their bikes to counter any unwanted gravitational forces and stop themselves from falling over.Why do motorcycles riders lean to turn? ›
The center seeking force (centripetal force) needed to turn the bike is the horizontal component, and it increases with the lean angle. The stickiness of the tires provides the friction necessary to produce the centripetal force that pulls the bike along an arc.What does it mean when a biker flips his plates? ›
First, in the internet age, people do not want others to photograph their bikes and post their license plates online. Another reason might be that the motorcyclist is hiding their plates from law enforcement, as the plates might be fraudulent or they might be doing something else wrong.What does tapping your head mean on a motorcycle? ›
High Beams On—When a rider taps their head, it is usually to indicate that high beams are on. In some groups, it can be used to mean that there are cops ahead. Debris on Road—If a rider shakes his leg, it is usually meant to tell the riders behind him that there is debris coming up ahead on that side of the road.What does it mean when a motorcyclist kicks his leg out? ›
This gesture is commonly used as a greeting when overtaking another biker (right foot, that would be if you drive on the right side of the road). As others have mentioned, it's also used to warn other rider if there is a dangerous situation ahead.Why do motorcyclists sway back and forth? ›
One popular technique is positioning the motorcycle so the driver in front of them is visible to the motorcycle rider in the car's side mirror. This ensures that the motorcyclist is visible. Riders may also move back and forth in the lane to avoid being tuned out by other drivers.Why am I scared to lean on motorcycle? ›
They often stiffen and lean in the wrong direction in an attempt to overcome the overwhelming sense of falling. The act of leaning into a corner stimulates this primal fear, which can either be terrifying or exhilarating, depending on your personal risk tolerance or level of training.
If you're riding along the road and see your fellow motorcycle riders tapping the top of their helmets as they pass you in the opposite direction, slow down and be cautious. In most of the U.S., this is a warning that the police are nearby.What should you not say to a biker? ›
- Wow, your garage really needed a makeover! ...
- It's like you have another woman out in the garage. ...
- You'll never get ME on that death machine! ...
- You know, I think you love that motorcycle more than you love me. ...
- You spent HOW MUCH on new pipes for your motorcycle?