Authorities in Waco continue their refusal to answer one of the most important questions about the shooting in Waco. How many of the 9 dead and 18 wounded were shot by law enforcement? There is a compelling societal interest in authorities releasing ballistics information confirming who shot who, not only for those accused in Waco, but for a country struggling with the issue of law enforcement militarization and illegal uses of deadly force. Most sources don’t believe that every person was killed or shot by police. In fact, some eyewitnesses specifically claim to have seen bikers shooting weapons. But regardless of how the conflict started, the criticism of law enforcement’s response is a legitimate social and policy issue. One of the main criticisms of militarized policing is the propensity to escalate conflicts resulting in more violence and death than would otherwise occur. There are very good reasons to suspect that that’s exactly what happened in Waco.
Eyewitness Accounts Say 2 or 3 Gunshots Followed By Barrage of Rifle Fire.
Although every story differs slightly, as is expected, there is one commonality among eyewitness accounts of the shooting in Waco. Every eyewitness says they first heard small arms fire, 2 or 3 shots, followed by a barrage of rifle fire. These accounts are independent of one another and come from those that were arrested and those that were not.
A number of these accounts come from veterans with experience in combat and weapon systems. These seem particularly important because they provide more than just a lay opinion relating to distinguishing rifle fire from handgun fire. Veteran eyewitnesses describe an unprofessional and unorganized response including randomly firing into a crowd of bikers.
Consider the following eyewitness accounts:
• William English, one of the arrested, in an account circulated by his lawyer, said “I heard two pops that sounded like small caliber gunfire. Following that, I heard several bursts of assault weapon shots. I recognized the sound because I carried one of those weapons for six years as a Marine. That’s all the gunfire I heard. Then the police started screaming ‘Get down!'”
• Former U.S. Marine Michael Devoll of Fort Worth, who completed three tours of duty in Iraq, has survived an untold number of firefights. But he says the one he witnessed in Waco on May 17 will forever haunt him. Not just because he was arrested following the incident and held in jail for 22 days on $1 million bail, but also because of what he calls a “barrage” of assault weapon fire coming from police directed into a crowd of bikers….”I heard a few rounds of handgun fire and then, I would say, an overbearing suppressing fire of M-4 rounds,” Devoll said….Devoll says while police were responding to a dangerous situation, it appeared as though they were randomly firing into a group of bikers. “People lying on the ground, trying to get away from the gunfire,” Devoll said. “I saw a woman with her hands over the top of her head screaming. People running for cover. The way the cops came running in and doing what they did, it seemed like almost shooting aimlessly into a crowd of people.” (See “Decorated war vet critical of Waco police actions”, WFAA News, June 11, 2015)
Although one may want to question the accounts of individuals that were arrested, their stories are corroborated by other eyewitnesses that weren’t arrested and charged with engaging in organized crime.
• Steve Cochran, a Navy veteran and member of the Sons of the South club, pulled into the parking lot facing the patio minutes before the shooting began. He was to help set up for the meeting of the Confederation of Clubs and Independents, a group that advocates for biker rights and motorcycle safety. “I heard one pistol shot. All the rest of the shots I heard were assault rifles,” said Cochran, who took cover behind a crane about 30 yards away. He walked the shooting scene with the AP several days later, showing what he saw and his vantage point. Cochran said he heard suppressed rounds fired by assault weapons, which sound different than a handgun firing.
• Ron Blackett, a former Army and Coast Guard officer, reported hearing one or two pistol shots followed by a blast of assault rifle fire from where he was parked in a lot behind Twin Peaks.
• Another eyewitness not charged in Waco corroborates the account offered by Devol, that police were shooting into the crowd. In a letter describing the event, this Vietnam combat veteran writes, “Soon as [the fight started] the Waco police jumped out of their vehicles and started shooting into the crowd”
Independent Accounts of Police Response Demand Release of Ballistics Reports
There will certainly be differences in the eyewitness accounts of the many individuals that were present at the Twin Peaks in Waco on May 17th. But when, despite these differences, the independent accounts all agree that two or three handgun shots were followed by a barrage of rifle fire then questions concerning law enforcement’s response become a legitimate topic of discussion and part of the larger societal debate relating to law enforcement abuses of deadly force and militarized police responses.
How many were killed by police? How many killed by police were armed? How many injured by police were armed? Did the militarized police response unnecessarily escalate a fight in the parking lot? Did police randomly fire into the crowd, as corroborated by independent accounts, because they viewed everyone present as violent gang members? Did law enforcement’s discriminatory profile of bikers lead to an overkill situation that would have been handled differently if officers were properly trained in motorcycle profiling awareness?
Access to information relating to the actions of government agents and officials is a cornerstone of a free society. The longer authorities remain silent about issues of deadly force, particularly as a result of militarized responses, the more divided citizens become from the very institutions intended to protect and serve them. The Waco PD’s highly prejudicial and inaccurate narrative, a narrative unconcerned with prejudicing potential jurors, has been followed by silence. This silence is cracking under the corroborated statements by independent witnesses claiming that police randomly fired into a crowd of bikers as a response to a shooting. As citizens, we have a right to know how many people agents of our government shot, injured and killed.