Police in Waco, Texas, have sharply revised downward the number of weapons seized after a deadly brawl in a shopping center parking lot that left nine people dead, 18 wounded and at least 177 facing criminal charges of engaging in an organized criminal activity.
Police said earlier this week they expected to recover 1,000 weapons, but now put the number at about 320.
“I have asked the Crime Scene Supervisor to give me a more firm count of weapons discovered from the Twin Peaks Restaurant so far,” Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said in a posting on Facebook.
He described the 1,000 figure as “a best-guess estimate from looking at the overall crime scene and was overestimated. My apologies for the confusion, and I should have waited to release a more specific count, not estimate.”
According to the statement, the total was 318 weapons “and still counting. We do expect the numbers to continue to rise.”
The weapons recovered were: 118 handguns, 157 knives and 43 others, including brass knuckles and chains. Some weapons had been quickly stashed -- under seat cushions and even in a toilet. Police also said an AK-47 assault rifle was recovered.
Swanton blamed the complexity of the crime scene for some of the confusion about the number of weapons.
Although the names of the dead have not yet been publicly released, family members of one man killed in Sunday's shootout said the Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient was no criminal, the Associated Press reported Thursday night.
Texas court records and a database maintained by the state Department of Public Safety turned up no criminal history in Texas for Jesus Delgado Rodriguez, 65, of New Braunfels, the AP said after reviewing those records.
Rodriguez's son, Vincent Ramirez, told the San Antonio Express-News that his father, who had served in the Marine Corps, was not violent or a current member of a motorcycle club. Rodriguez's son-in-law, Amado Garces, told the newspaper, "If he thought there was going to be violence, he wouldn't have gone."
Rodriguez was among those killed when gunfire erupted Sunday afternoon at Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, where five motorcycle gangs had gathered for what participants have said was a previously scheduled meeting to discuss common issues, such as pending motorcycle safety legislation.
Police have said that an uninvited gang attended and have blamed the subsequent violence on a rivalry between the Bandidos, the state's largest motorcycle group, and the Cossacks, an up-and-coming group. Police have said the two were going to discuss turf issues.
According to police, one of the motorcyclists had an accident in the parking lot, running over the foot of another biker. There was also a confrontation in a bathroom inside the restaurant, police have said.
The fight, which began with fists and chains, escalated to knives and guns in the parking lot, where 18 Waco police officers and four state officers were stationed. The police rushed to the shooting in less than a minute, and at least four officers fired weapons, authorities said.
Preliminary autopsy findings show the nine dead men ranged in age from 27 to 65. All died from gunshot wounds, mainly in the head, neck or torso.
Three of the dead were found in the parking lot outside of the Twin Peaks restaurant, four were found in front of the building, and one had been dragged behind a neighboring restaurant, Swanton said on Monday. The ninth person died at a hospital.
Officials are awaiting forensic tests on the recovered weapons before they can decide who fired the fatal shots.
Police have arrested at least 177 people in connection with the shootings. All face a charge of engaging in an organized criminal enterprise -- the fatal shootings. No one has yet been charged with capital murder, though officials have said that is a possibility.
All of the defendants are being held in lieu of $1-million bond. At least one person has posted bond and was released; a second person is expected to be released, according to jail officials. There have been at least eight requests for bond reduction hearings, and all have been scheduled for early June.
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