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 and said something few were expecting: The brazen biker-gang shootout that erupted in the Waco, Texas, shopping center Sunday, leaving nine dead and 18 others wounded, could have 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 at 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.”
Waco police even claimed they had contacted the Twin Peaks corporate office in Dallas days earlier, after management at the local franchise remained uncooperative, according to USA Today.
“It’s not a criminal charge not to listen to law enforcement,” Swanton said.
The Waco franchise has been heavily criticized by authorities since 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.
Jay Patel, operating partner for the Twin Peaks in Waco, said in a statement Sunday that the restaurant was “horrified by the criminal, violent acts that occurred outside of our Waco restaurant today. We share in the community’s trauma. Our priority is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our customers and employees, and we consider the police our partners in doing so.”
Patel added that “our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police and … we will continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this terrible crime.”
Swanton called Patel’s statement a “fabrication,” according to the Associated Press, which reported that the Waco police “described the management as uncooperative with authorities in addressing concerns about the gangs.”
“Are we frustrated? Sure,” Swanton said, according to CNN. “Because we feel like there may have been more that could have been done by a business to prevent this.”
The Twin Peaks corporate office apparently agreed: The Dallas-based company announced Monday that it was “immediately” revoking the franchising agreement for the Waco location.
“We are in the people business and the safety of the employees and guests in our restaurants is priority one,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately the management team of the franchised restaurant in Waco chose to ignore the warnings and advice from both the police and our company, and did not uphold the high security standards we have in place to ensure everyone is safe at our restaurants.
“We cannot tolerate the actions of this relatively new franchisee and have revoked their franchise agreement effectively immediately. Our sympathies continue to be with the families of those who died and are very thankful no employees, guests, police officers or bystanders were hurt or injured.”
The Waco location, which opened in August, is owned by the Dallas-based Chalak Mitra Group, the Morning News reported.
Swanton said the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission was implementing a week-long suspension of Twin Peaks liquor sales while agents investigate Sunday’s incident.
“This is not a punitive action on TABC’s part but done due to the ongoing danger it presents to our community,” he said.
Chris Porter, a commission spokesman, told CNN the investigation could result in “anything from a fine to the permanent revocation of Twin Peaks’ liquor license.”
Porter said the restaurant has not had any complaints or actions taken against it.
Despite the ongoing investigation, the restaurant will have the option of opening its doors for food sales, Swanton said. He added that he hopes the ownership has the courtesy to the public and the dead to remain closed during that period.
Before Sunday’s violence began, police were bracing for violence: Swanton said 18 police officers were at the sports bar when the fighting began and had secured the area because they “knew the chance for violence was significant.”
By the the time the bar filled with outlaw bikers from five different gangs, Swanton said, a large contingent of officers and police vehicles were already on scene. At that point, however, it may have been too late.
“They could care less whether we’re here or not,” he said. “They knew we were seconds away and were going to respond.”
Authorities said the melee involving at least “five known gangs” began in a restroom before pouring into the restaurant and quickly moving into a patio area and then into the parking lot. Bikers were shot inside and outside the restaurant, police said. Frightened witnesses described crouching behind vehicles while dozens of guns were fired and bullets whizzed by.
One witness, Michelle Logan, told the Waco Tribune-Herald: “There were maybe 30 guns being fired in the parking lot, maybe 100 rounds. They just opened fire. … There’s a lot of people in the hospital, a lot of people shot.”
Twin Peaks, headquartered in Dallas, is a casual dining chain with dozens of locations nationwide that employs a largely female staff scantily clad in plaid shirts and mini shorts. The “breastaurant” chain’s CEO, Randy DeWitt, calls his female employees “weapons of mass distraction” and once told Bloomberg: “Hooters just wasn’t racy enough.”
“We’re all about the really super cold beer and really hot girls,” Meggie Miller, the chain’s marketing director, says in a promotional video. “Not only super hot girls just naturally, but girls that are beautifully styled that carry themselves well” and “love to entertain a table.”
In 2013, the chain was featured on an episode of “Undercover Boss.” During the episode, producers planted an unruly patron in one of the restaurants to test a female employee’s ability to deal with aggressive male customer.
DeWitt described the restaurant on the show as “a high-energy mountain-themed sports bar.”
“We have an expression at Twin Peaks,” he adds: “It’s a place where you can let your man out.”
For the Waco location, which opened last summer, that meant “Bike Night” on Thursdays.
“Get revved up and ready to go,” a calendar on the Twin Peaks Waco Web site advertised.
A statement from parent company’s Facebook page expressed shock and dismay after Sunday’s violence:
“We were shocked by the shootings that took place in the parking lot of our franchised restaurant in Waco and are fully reviewing all the circumstances surrounding it. We are thankful no employees, guests or police were injured in this senseless violence outside the restaurant, and our sympathies are with the families of those killed.”
At a news conference Monday, Swanton remained unmoved by the chain’s apparent shock. Maintaining his candor, he reiterated his previous assertion that the restaurant played a significant role in Sunday’s violence. This time, he put it even more bluntly, saying that Twin Peaks has “some answering not only to do to y’all,
but to our community as well.”