How Common Is Biker Violence In Texas? Gang Activity Has Been Increasing In The State And Nationwide

A violent scene unfolded Sunday in Waco, Texas, after several rival gangs opened fire on each other, an incident that left at least nine people dead and more than a dozen injured. Officers were already on the scene prior to the fight because they expected trouble, so that begs the question: How common is biker violence in Texas? Authorities were reportedly aware there were high tensions in the gang scene and a violent incident was possible.

Local authorities declined to disclose the names of the biker gangs involved, though social media appeared to identify the markings of the three gangs involved as belonging to the Bandidos, the Cossacks, and the Scimitars. The FBI identified the Bandidos, one of the gangs allegedly involved in Sunday's shootout, as one of the most significant outlaw motorcycle gang (OMG) threats in the country. The Bandidos are well known in east Texas, including in Waco.

The FBI defines outlaw motorcycle gangs as organizations whose members "use motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises." The FBI classifies OMGs as highly structured criminal organizations, whose activities include violent crimes and weapons and drug trafficking, and according to their reports, there are more than 300 active OMGs across the country. An OMG can range in size, from a single chapter with a handful of members to a global organization with hundreds of chapters and thousands of members. OMG members make up 2.5 percent of all U.S. gang members, the FBI reported.

In Texas, there are more than 100,000 peopled affiliated with a street gang, according to the Texas Gang Threat Assessment released by the state in April 2014. More than 4,600 gangs have been identified, according to the report, though it indicated it was unclear how any were still active. Individual gang membership can range from a few people to thousands. The report said the state expected the overall gang threat in its borders to increase and remain high, similar to the rest of the country.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna told reporters that tensions have been brewing for months. Local station KWTX said officers were also on their way to the Flying J Truck Stop near New Road and Interstate 35 after there were reports of a large number of bikers gathering around the intersection. Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton told the media that officials were concerned about other incidents erupting in other locations around Waco.

The fight broke out Twins Peaks restaurant, and it quickly escalated from a fistfight to one involving knives, clubs, and eventually guns. Of the nine people who were killed, eight died at the scene and another at a nearby hospital. All those killed were reportedly gang-affiliated. Police said 18 people were injured in the shootout and taken to hospitals to be treated, though it was unclear how many injured were bystanders or gang members. No law enforcement officers were reportedly injured.