How 172 Bikers Could Face Murder Charges For Waco Shootout

After the Texas shootout, the feds can use so-called RICO laws to start arresting members of the Bandidos biker gang

May 18, 2015 at 1:54 PM ET

Over the past 24 hours, police have arrested more than 172 bikers in connection with Sunday’s deadly shootout in Waco, Texas—and that may be just the beginning. If they choose, law enforcement in certain cases will be able to arrest people who played absolutely no role in the shootout.

State laws give wide latitude to police when it comes to going after gangs. Texas law enforcement has labeled the three motorcycle clubs allegedly involved in Sunday’s massacre—the Bandidos, Scimitars and Cossacks—”criminal street gangs,” which is a very serious designation. For anyone determined to be a member of these gangs, the penalties are significantly stiffer. Under Texas law, a “criminal street gang” is a group of “three or more persons having a common identifying sign or symbol or an identifiable leadership who continuously or regularly associate in the commission of criminal activities.”

For the crime of engaging in organized criminal activity, every person involved in the alleged crime can be charged with the most serious offense committed by the group as a whole. In the case of the nearly 200 bikers involved in Sunday’s shootout, which killed nine people and injured many more, the top offense is first-degree murder. Under Texas law, the punishment for a first-degree felony is a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison if committed by a member of a criminal street gang.

Stepped-up federal laws are also in play in Sunday’s shootout. The Bandidos—and their roughly 2,400 members, according to federal law enforcement officials—are considered by the feds to be one of the “big four” motorcycle clubs. Federal authorities refer to them as an “outlaw motorcycle gang” (OMG). That means so-called RICO Laws, made famous for their use in mafia cases, apply. Under RICO laws, simply being a member of one of these gangs is enough to get a person arrested for crimes committed by any member of the gang–even if they haven’t committed any other crimes. Recently, RICO has been applied to cases dealing with the MS-13 gang and the Hells Angels, another member of the fed’s “Big Four” OMGs.


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