The Twin Peaks chain is the most successful of America’s post-Hooters wave of so-called breastaurants. (“Hooters,” the co-founder of Twin Peaks has said, “wasn’t racy enough.”) Flirty waitresses wear skimpy mountaineering outfits: tiny khaki shorts, midriff-baring plaid shirts, climbing boots. A sign outside promises EATS • DRINKS • SCENIC VIEWS.
Though it had been open less than a year, the Twin Peaks in Waco was already a popular spot for Thursday Biker Nights. The Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents—a kind of United Nations General Assembly for local motorcycle clubs—had never held its bimonthly meeting at Twin Peaks before, but the organization’s state chairman was returning from a national convention, and he wanted to speak to as many Texas bikers as possible about various legislative initiatives. Waco is situated between Dallas and Austin, two of the most populous biker cities in Texas.
Afterward—after nine bikers were shot dead, 20 were wounded, and an unprecedented 177 people from at least five different clubs wound up in police custody—the Waco Police Department would claim that the bloodbath was triggered by the Bandidos and the Cossacks, a pair of rival “outlaw motorcycle gangs” (OMGs in law-enforcement vernacular), beefing over the things that OMGs tend to beef over: territory, respect. Months later, though, the Waco P.D. was still suppressing any video footage and ballistic analysis that could offer proof. Some of the 177 arrested (including four women) languished in jail for weeks, others for months, before they could afford to post bail. All of them, even guys who hid out in the bathroom while bullets flew, face up to 99 years in jail.
These bimonthly confederation meetings, known as COC meetings, are mostly arcane discussions of motorcycle-rights issues. They have zero history of violence. Then again, they have virtually zero history of Cossack participation. In fact, May 17 marked only the second time in memory any of the club’s members had ever attended a COC meeting; for years, they’d refused to join the organization—a direct rebuke to the Bandidos, Texas’s most powerful motorcycle club and one of the nation’s largest, with more than 2,000 members. But things had been ugly between the two rivals for a while—fistfights, knife fights, roadside beatings. Infrequent, but growing in brutality.
As a general rule, bikers are not big talkers. It’s an insular and suspicious world, especially in Texas, especially now, in the hazy aftermath of the bloodiest day in the often sensationalized history of American biker clubs. Nevertheless, all the Cossacks interviewed by GQ for this story insist they showed up that morning to make peace. And virtually every biker I spoke with last June and July—Cossacks, Bandidos, members of multiple other clubs, 22 bikers in total—believes that the real blame for all the dead bodies belongs with the Waco police.
Anonymous Cossack #1: (1) We had almost 70 men, and we showed up at the same time, because we don’t like being left on the road in small groups, because of what’s been happening. We went in and ordered drinks.
Vincent Glenn (officer, Waco P.D., from an affidavit dated June 15): The Cossacks and their support clubs took over the patio area, which is the exact area of the restaurant that was reserved for the [COC] meeting.
Anonymous motorcycle-club member: We noticed all the Cossacks sitting on the patio. We gave respect to them, them being a bigger group and having so many people there.
Anonymous Cossack #1: A group of seven Bandidos rolled up on bikes, furious that we were parking up front. They hit one of our prospects, an older guy—ran over his foot.
Reginald Weathers (Bandidos, from court testimony at his bail hearing): My president and vice president tried to back in, and immediately the Cossacks on the porch came out and started pushing their bikes [away], saying they couldn’t park there. [Cossacks] kept coming off the patio, over the fence—60 to 100 guys. They were yelling at my president [and] my vice president.
Glenn (from his affidavit): Several of the Cossacks pulled their weapons, including handguns.
Anonymous Cossack #1: Of course, we’re not gonna back down. We’re men. One of our sergeants at arms—our guys in charge of security—said, “We can take our cuts [vests with club patches] off right now, and you and I can fight.” The guy says, “No, we’re not doin’ that.” Our sergeant at arms says, “Then let’s go in and have a beer and talk about it.”
John Wilson (Cossacks Motorcycle Club, McLennan County chapter president): It looked like it was all going to calm down.
Anonymous Cossack #2: And then somebody, I think it was a Bandido, said, “Don’t talk to my president that way.”
Weathers (from court testimony): I said, “I don’t think you need to talk to my president like that.” I didn’t think it was very respectful. He hit me. My head got pulled down. There was a crowd of guys, and I couldn’t see anything.
Anonymous Cossack #2: Fists flew, and it was game on. They went to the ground. Seconds later, I heard bang!
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