The Waco, Texas, police chief on Friday defended the actions of his officers responding to a deadly biker gang brawl in May, saying the officers fired a total of 12 shots and “did not fire indiscriminately.”
The roundup of 177 bikers on criminal charges after violence broke out during a meeting of motorcycle clubs has been criticized by some who were arrested as heavy-handed and excessive.
Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman said the brawl, which left nine people dead and 18 injured outside the Twin Peaks restaurant on May 17, would have "escalated" if 16 officers hadn't responded from nearby parking lots.
Police said at the time that officers were shot at and returned fire, but until Friday authorities had not said how many rounds were fired by law enforcement. Investigators are still trying to determine whether any shots from police struck bikers.
"We did not fire indiscriminately into the crowd. Our officers were restrained. They were courageous in what they did," Stroman said.
Forty-four shells casings have been recovered from the scene, and 12 rounds were fired by three Waco officers who were acting in defense of themselves or others, according to a press release from the Waco Police Department. "No other officers fired rounds from any other weapon during the incident," the release said.
The officers involved in shooting have been assigned to administrative work while the incident is being investigated, the release said. Investigators are working to determine who started the deadly fight.
At least 475 weapons, including 151 firearms, were recovered from the scene, according to the police statement. Waco police said 177 people were arrested on the night of the shooting, and 106 have since been released on bail.
Stroman said officers had probable cause to arrest the people who were taken into custody at the scene and in the aftermath of the incident, and the speed at which the remaining 71 detained people are released or charged is "up to the district attorney."
Bikers gathered in Waco on Sunday to protest the number of arrests and the length of time that those who remain in jail have been held.