Grand Jury Decides Deadly Force Justified in Twin Peaks Biker Shootout

Waco Police officers involved in the Twin Peaks Shooting have been cleared of any wrongdoing by a grand jury.

WACO - A grand jury cleared Waco Police officers involved in the Twin Peaks Shooting of any wrongdoing Wednesday.

The three officers who shot their weapons during the deadly biker brawl, Officer Andy O'Neal, Officer Michael Bucher, and Officer Heath Jackson, have been on administrative leave since May 17th, 2015 while department did it's own internal investigation.

Two of the three officers were responsible for four of the nine biker deaths and one of the 22 biker injuries, according to sources.  The 12-person grand jury decided the use of deadly force was justified following the presentation of Waco PD's investigation by the Texas Rangers and the McLennan County District Attorney's Office at the McLennan County Courthouse Wednesday morning.
 
By noon, the jurors decided against any wrongdoing which would lead to indictments, essentially a "no bill" for Officers O'Neal, Bucher, and Jackson.
 
Interim Police Chief Frank Gentsch declined requests for on-camera interviews outside the grand jury room but released this statement.
 
"These officers acted professional under very difficult circumstances.  I'm glad to have this caliber of officers protecting our city.  I appreciate the job conducted by the Department Investigators, the Texas Rangers, the McLennan County DA's office and the Grand Jury in this case.  I will be returning these officers to full duty immediately."
 
The officers had been off the streets for almost 16 months while the investigation was underway. While the internal investigation took longer than hoped, Reyna agreed with the grand jury's decision, releasing this statement on behalf of his office:
 
"Today, the McLennan County Grand Jury found that the deadly force used by three Waco Police Department Officers in the May 17, 2015 Twin Peaks Shootout was justified under the law.  The Grand Jury gave vigilant and thorough consideration of all the evidence in this investigation.  We very much respect and agree with the decision of the Grand Jury.  These officers acted in accordance with their training and the laws of the State of Texas. I want to thank these officers for their courage and bravery, the Texas Rangers for their unconditional assistance, Waco PD for their cooperation, and the members of the Grand Jury for their careful and thoughtful deliberation on this matter.  I am pleased that these officers will be able to resume their duties of protecting our community and keeping us safe."
 
Former Dallas County Prosecutor and KCEN's legal analyst Liz Mitchell said the McLennan County DA's Office was at the mercy of Waco PD's investigation.
 
"I don't believe the District Attorney's Office could have gone to trial without these officers being cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury," said Mitchell.  "That would have given a defense to many of the people that stand trial, ya know that officers hadn't yet been cleared of wrongdoing, etcetera, etcetera, this way they can just move forward."
 
While the officers are off the hook, many bikers are not.  A Waco grand jury handed-down felony indictments for engaging in organized crime to 154 of the bikers who were at the Waco restaurant on May 17th of last year.
 
So far, None of those cases have gone to trial.
 
An impending decision from Waco Judge Matthew Johnson on whether or not Reyna should be allowed to try the cases while being sued by several bikers, is making the future of Twin Peaks cases unclear at this time. 
 
In June of 2015, then-Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman said 16 officers were assigned to watch the biker gathering, three of the officers fired a total of 12 shots from rifles, and more than 150-guns and 44 shell casings were recovered from the scene.  Stroman retired in the summer after 39 years in law enforcement.

(© 2016 KCEN)


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