Judge issues gag order in Texas biker shooting case

Authorities investigate a shooting in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant Sunday, May 17, 2015, in Waco, Texas. Authorities say that the shootout victims were members of rival biker gangs that had gathered for a meeting. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A sweeping gag order was issued Tuesday in a lawsuit arising from a May brawl at a roadside restaurant in Waco, Texas, in which nine bikers were killed and 177 people arrested.

The ruling in the lawsuit filed by Matthew Clendennen, a biker who says he was wrongfully arrested, prevents attorneys, witnesses and law enforcement officers involved in the case from discussing it with the media.

McLennan County District Court Judge Matt Johnson also ruled that Clendennen’s attorney, Clint Broden, can view surveillance video from the Twin Peaks franchisee in Waco, but barred it from public release.

Video footage shared earlier with The Associated Press shows that when gunfire erupted in the parking lot of the restaurant, most of the motorcycle riders who were watching the May 17 confrontation from the patio or inside immediately ran away from the shooting. A few tried to direct people to safety, while others were seen crawling for cover.

Waco police were on scene, and some fired their weapons. It remains unclear whose bullets struck the nine who died; the results of autopsies and ballistic analyses have not been made public.

Broden obtained a subpoena for the video last week, but the city filed a motion to quash it, saying it would interfere with its ongoing investigation into the shootout.

Johnson said in the gag order that he acted to prevent pretrial publicity from influencing potential jurors. Johnson declined the AP’s request for comment.

Las Vegas attorney Stephen Stubbs, who was retained by the Bandidos, one of the motorcycle clubs involved in the melee, called the gag order unconstitutional.

“Tying the hands of these people who have been accused of crimes and not allowing them to defend themselves in the media is just wrong,” Stubbs told the AP.

The shooting began after an apparent confrontation between the Bandidos, the predominant motorcycle club in Texas, and the Cossacks, according to investigators. Hundreds of weapons — including 151 firearms — were recovered.

Witnesses have said they thought they heard automatic weapons during the shooting. But Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman said earlier this month that city officers had disabled the automatic setting on their rifles, and that most of the dozens of shell casings found at the scene were from suspects’ guns.

Those arrested were held on a $1 million bond on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, but only six remain in jail.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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