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Texas police on Tuesday defended the initial release of three suspects — arrested among 170 others in a deadly biker gang shootout — after they were freed on bonds ranging from just $20,000 to $50,000.
All three — Jim Harris, 27, Juan Garica, 45, and Drew King, 31, all from Austin — have since been rearrested, Waco police said.
The trio was first arrested at the scene of Sunday's shooting outside of Waco sports bar Twin Peaks with weapons, police said. They were booked on lesser charges instead of the first-degree felony charge of engaging in organized crime the other suspects faced.
"They had a right to bond that was set very early. They made that bond and they got released," Waco Sgt. Patrick Swanton told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "It was not a mistake."
But after the men made bond on Monday, state district judges realized that their initial bail amounts were too low, Swanton added, and should have been set at a higher $1 million each — just as the other bikers were given based on the felony charge.
Swanton said it was not anyone's fault for releasing the men.
Meanwhile, police on Tuesday continued to find weapons stashed inside motorcycles and cars left amid the carnage at the Twin Peaks parking lot, where nine bikers were killed as police descended on the scene. The brawl was reportedly between rival biker gangs the Bandidos and Cossacks.
Despite the rearrest of two suspects Tuesday, a lawyer who has represented Bandidos members told NBC News that he expects criminal charges will ultimately be lowered or dropped for many of those allegedly involved.
"You can't charge someone just because they are there," said lawyer Kent Schaffer. "They can charge them and set a high bond, but once lawyers get involved, those are going to get pared down."
Police said they are still trying to determine who shot whom outside of the sports bar. Some of the bullets may have come from police. Figuring it out will be impossible until the nine autopsies are conducted and investigators can compare bullets to guns, police said.
Schaffer, who said he took a call from the international president of the Bandidos but has not been retained, said that whether murder charges are filed will depend on "whether or not they can put a gun in anybody’s hand."
"There’s gonna be self-defense issues," he said. "[But] whoever fired the first shot has a problem assuming he’s still alive."
Standing up organized-crime charges may also be difficult, Schaffer added, because the gathering was a regularly scheduled Confederation of Clubs meeting.
"It’s like the dance at the gym," he said. "It’s neutral territory. People don’t usually fight each other. The COC is an opportunity for people to sit down and talk without any violence."
Asked whether the Bandidos are a criminal organization, he said he didn’t believe there were even chapter presidents with criminal records. A Houston firefighter and oil engineers belong to the gang, he said.
There are some members with criminal records, he conceded, "but there’s just as many who don’t. You can say that about any organization, including the Republican Party."
Jimmy Graves, a national officer of the Bandidos, said his organization doesn't knowingly accept criminals and doesn't set out to break the law — or exact violence against police as law enforcement has claimed.
"How long do you think the Bandidos motorcycle organization would last if we went out shooting at cops?" Graves asked NBC affiliate KXAN. "President Obama himself would send out the Air Force, the Army, the Marines Corp and everybody and take us out. There's no way. We respect the police for doing their job."
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