Two biker gang leaders convicted for deadly 2015 shootout
Posted May 17, 2018 6:37 p.m. EDT
(CNN) — Three years after the deadly biker gang shootout in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, the top two leaders of the Bandidos motorcycle club were found guilty on 13 federal charges.
Bandidos National President Jeffrey Pike, 62, and Vice President Xavier Portillo, 58, were convicted Thursday by a jury in San Antonio after a nearly three-month trial.
Jurors convicted the leaders of the motorcycle organization of racketeering, drug trafficking, conspiracy to commit murder and extortion charges. The men face up to life in prison and will be sentenced later this year.
Prosecutors have dismissed dozens of criminal cases against other bikers who were at the deadly Twin Peaks shootout in May 2015.
McLennan District Attorney Abel Reyna decided hours after the shootout to round up all the bikers and charge them with the same criminal count of engaging in organized criminal activity. But that strategy now seems to be unraveling.
Since February, the district attorney has dismissed criminal charges against 124 bikers. On May 9, a McLennan grand jury re-indicted 25 bikers who were at the shootout.
Among the new indictments were three murder charges against Bandidos bikers, as well as charges of tampering with evidence and engaging in first- and second-degree riot.
The federal investigation into the Bandidos leadership was not part of the Waco shootout investigation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was already working with the Drug Enforcement Agency, building its case against the outlaw motorcycle gang.
The Twin Peaks shootout was the violent ending to a boiling feud between the Bandidos and the Cossacks biker clubs. Cossacks bikers have told CNN that they came to the Twin Peaks to make peace. The Bandidos say the Cossacks showed up in massive numbers that morning to ambush them.
Nine people were killed and dozens more injured and wounded on that Sunday morning. Investigators carried out an unprecedented roundup and charged 177 bikers.
The handling of the Waco shootout cases has been highly controversial and described as "embarrassing" and a "frontal assault" on the biker's rights.
"This incident serves as an abject lesson to prosecutors that, in America, you are supposed to investigate first and charge later; not the other way around," attorney Clint Broden, who represented three bikers, said in a statement.
The federal case against the Bandidos leaders has loomed heavily over the Waco prosecution. Federal prosecutors alleged that Pike and Portillo sanctioned years of violence against rival biker gangs in order "to protect the power, reputation and territory of the Bandidos enterprise."
Prosecutors also argued that Pike approved a declaration of war on the Cossacks biker club that ultimately led to carnage at Twin Peaks.
"This effort demonstrates our ongoing commitment to prevent gang violence and criminal activity from poisoning our communities. It also sends a clear message that we will relentlessly pursue and prosecute the leaders and members of these violent criminal enterprises," FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said in a statement after the verdict.
Pike, the national president of the Bandidos from 2005 to 2016, was featured exclusively in the CNN documentary "Biker Brawl: Inside the Texas Shootout." In the CNN interview, Pike, who was not at the Twin Peaks during the shootout, dismissed the accusations of declaring war on the Cossacks with a laugh and said he had not committed a crime in decades.
"They (investigators) asked me that in my interview when they arrested me," Pike told CNN. "I laughed and I said, 'How do you do that? It's an act of Congress to declare war. Do we write them a letter or what?'"
Pike had stepped down as national president shortly before the CNN interview.
In November, the only Waco case that has gone to a jury ended in a dramatic mistrial. The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict in the case of Jake Carrizal, the president of the Dallas Bandidos chapter.
Carrizal was one of the first Bandidos bikers to arrive at the Twin Peaks restaurant and was in the middle of the fight.
"They weren't there to chit-chat. They were on a mission. They were there to confront us," Carrizal told CNN for the documentary. "They were attacking. And I was fighting for my life."
Carrizal is one of the Bandidos bikers who has been re-indicted by a McLennan grand jury and now faces a first-degree riot charge. He faces up to life in prison. His new trial is still pending.
The Bandidos are considered part of the 1% outlaw biker world. It's a label that has repeatedly made the club's members targets of law enforcement investigators.
Law enforcement investigators say 1% clubs, especially the Bandidos, operate as criminal street gangs and live "to instill fear and intimidation" in their rivals.