This Reporter Interviewed 22 Bikers From the Waco Shootout. Here's What He Learned.
From Texas Standard: It's been four months since the deadly biker shootout in Waco, Texas. The violence left nine people dead, 20 more wounded, and 177 bikers in jail. Now Nathan Penn, a correspondent with GQ, has the untold side of the story.
He reported on the ground from Texas and had extensive ongoing conversations with those involved. Out of more than 100 requests for interviews, he says 22 came forward.
One anonymous biker recounts his experience:
"The police were already there as the rest of the clubs arrived that morning," he says. "They're circling like buzzards on a dead deer.... I look at the people I was riding with, and I said, 'This don't look right.'"
The investigation has been fraught with problems. They range from million-dollar bonds allegedly rubber-stamped by officials to civil liberty lawsuits and a gag order. Penn says the gag order was one of the reasons we haven't heard or seen the bikers' side of the story in the media.
In fact, Penn says it was "very good luck" that he finished reporting the story just three days before the gag order was imposed. Although, he says, there was still some hesitation from the biker community to speak out.
"We put out well over 100 interview requests," Penn says. The bikers were wary of national media and afraid that courts would view their participation "unkindly," he says.
Penn says accounts from the rival gangs were surprisingly consistent – police involvement was much greater than had been reported. Conspiracy theories are still circulating that undercover officers may have instigated the confrontation.
One of Penn's interviewees, who he says is cooperating with police, witnessed the first shot and says he still has not recognized that first shooter, out of all the mug shots Waco police have shown him. Any video that may have been taken at the meeting is in the hands of the police, Penn says.
"We began this story thinking it was about Texas gang culture," Penn says. "It turned out to be a story about the Waco justice system."