“Why is Waco, Texas, fighting to suppress multiple videos of the shootout that killed nine bikers at the Twin Peaks restaurant on May 17? Why are some attorneys in the case now prohibited from talking to the press? And why haven’t Waco officials revealed how many of the nine victims were killed by bullets from police officers’ guns?” Good questions all. More notable perhaps is that they’re being asked by Conor Friedersdorf via that notorious right wing conspiracy purveyor, The Atlantic. Nice that they’ve noticed. They’re some of the same questions that we’ve been asking here since the shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant went down back in May . . .
Mass arrests. Million dollar bail set for scores of “suspects”– many, if not most of whom were likely innocent. Suppressed ballistics and autopsy reports. Video evidence kept from the public. Questionable grand jurors. You don’t have to be sporting a Reynolds Wrap yarmulke to be wondering exactly what the Waco powers that be have to hide.
And as Friedersdorf notes, setting aside the public’s right to know — not to mention nine dead bodies — the casualties in the aftermath have been many.
Over the last two months, motorcyclists swept up in the mass arrest following the carnage have lost jobs, been evicted from apartments, and even lost custody of children. And every day that authorities continue their opposition to sunlight in the case delays vindication for the innocents who’ve had their lives upended. The state loses little by dragging its feet while accused innocents pay dearly.
Of course, it’s not hard to grok what their motivation might be for refusing to release any evidence of what happened that day.
If there is video or ballistics evidence suggesting that lots of innocent people were arrested without probable cause, or that police bullets killed some of the dead that day in Waco, it will be a public-relations nightmare and a huge liability for Waco and its police department. Scores of bikers could sue for six- or seven-figure sums. And prosecutors might find it much more difficult to secure indictments in the case.
But if indictments can be filed before evidence inconvenient to Waco authorities is publicly revealed, the leverage changes. A biker might be indicted for conspiracy to murder, then offered a plea deal to accept a much lesser charge, like disturbing the peace, with the understanding that time served would take care of the sentence. That would be a tempting deal to take. And pleading guilty to disturbing the peace would preclude a lawsuit for being arrested without probable cause while saving police and prosecutors from looking like they harassed innocents.
Nice and tidy. But with that many people locked up for months and all the knock-on disruptive effects on their lives, you can bet that they won’t all be going quietly. And once the evidence is finally made public, the cases the innocent bikers who were Hoovered up in a mass round-up will have against the police department and the city will attract lawyers sniffing big paydays like bears to a pic-a-nic basket.
If the assiduously anti-gun Atlantic has noticed the apparent travesty of justice this has become for probably dozens of people, this is going to get a lot messier and more widely noticed for everyone involved who’s in a position of authority. And the whole sordid affair looks like it’s about to get awfully expensive for the funder of last resort – Waco’s taxpayers.