3 more bikers file federal civil suits over Twin Peaks arrests

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Three bikers arrested after the Twin Peaks shootout in Waco have joined the ranks of seven others who are suing McLennan County, Waco and state officials, alleging civil rights violations.

Bradley Terwilliger, of Bastrop County, and Benjamin Matcek and Jimmy Dan Smith, both of Burleson County, are seeking unspecified damages in their lawsuit, filed Friday in a Travis County federal court.

Like others before it, the lawsuit names McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, Waco police Detective Manuel Chavez and an unnamed Department of Public Safety agent as defendants.

Reyna did not return phone messages left at his office Friday.

“We have received these lawsuits and are actively litigating them,” Assistant City Attorney Judith Benton said, declining additional comment.

The suit, filed by Dallas attorney Don Tittle, alleges unlawful arrest and due process violations and alleges the plaintiffs were arrested with no evidence that they committed any crimes or had any ties to warring biker groups the Bandidos or the Cossacks.

Matcek and Smith are identified in the lawsuit as members of the Line Riders Motorcycle Club, which the suit says has no affiliation with either the Bandidos or Cossacks. Matcek, according to the lawsuit, was running late and was not even at Twin Peaks at the eruption of the fire fight, which left nine bikers dead and more than 20 wounded.

Once he arrived, Waco police allowed Matcek, Terwilliger and Smith to take one of their wounded friends to the hospital, the suit says. They were arrested later in the parking lot of a closed business as their friend was being treated.

The violence resulted in the arrests of 192 bikers, including 15 who later were named in sealed indictments because they were injured and not arrested May 17, 2015, and the indictments of 154 — all on identical first-degree felony engaging in organized criminal activity charges.

“The arrests of these three guys demonstrates how little thought Reyna and Chief Stroman gave before ordering these mass arrests,” Tittle said Friday. “One was a member of a small motorcycle club with no ties to anyone, one was not a member of any club, and the third one was running late and hadn’t even arrived at Twin Peaks when the violence occurred. How on earth can you conspire with the others that were present when you haven’t even gotten there yourself? It’s crazy.”

Terwilliger, Matcek and Smith have not been indicted.

“Despite a total lack of particularized evidence relating to specific individuals, defendants Stroman, Chavez and Reyna determined that individuals would be arrested and charged with engaging in organized criminal activity based entirely on their presence at Twin Peaks, the motorcycle club that defendants presumed an individual was associated with, and/or the clothing they were wearing at the time of the incident,” the suit alleges. “Rather than investigating the incident and relying on actual facts to establish probable cause, defendants theorized that a conspiracy of epic proportion between dozens of people had taken place, and willfully ignored the total absence of facts to support their ‘theory.’ ”

The suit claims that the arrest warrant affidavit, which was identical for all arrested that day, falsely alleges that the bikers all were members of a criminal street gang. The document was drafted by the DA’s office and obtained by Chavez.

“That statement is categorically false,” the lawsuit says. “It is an indisputable fact that defendants did not possess any reliable, particularized information to indicate that plaintiffs themselves were members of a criminal street gang on or before the date such fact was sworn to by defendant Chavez.”

Biker Ray Nelson filed a motion this week to disqualify Reyna from prosecuting the cases because of his role in the investigation and his decision to charge the wide array of bikers. A hearing on that motion is set next month. His attorney charged that Reyna “commandeered” the investigation after Waco police detectives had already processed a bus load of bikers, identified them and allowed them to go home that evening.

“In the aftermath of the incident at Twin Peaks, defendants apparently concluded that the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution ceased to apply and could be ignored given what they perceived as an immediate need to announce the re-establishment of law and order in their town,” the suit alleges.

Terwilliger, according to the lawsuit, did not have any patches, vest or jacket that indicated he was a member of a group because he was not a member of any motorcycle club. The father of a young child who lost his job as a result of his arrest has friends in the Line Riders club and he rode to Twin Peaks to attend a meeting of a biker coalition and to socialize, the suit says.

“Plaintiff Terwilliger was engaged in completely lawful conduct at all times relevant to the Twin Peaks incident,” according to the suit.

Matcek, the suit says, made a 100-mile charitable ride the day before the Twin Peaks incident for the organization Bikers Against Child Abuse. The Line Riders in an independent group with no association to other clubs, the suit alleges.

“Defendants were aware that the Line Riders were not affiliated or associated with any other motorcycle club because a detective in the gang unit with the Waco PD, who was working closely with defendants, expressly told Terwilliger, Matcek, and Smith on the evening of May 17, 2015, that he had determined that the Line Riders were an independent club with no affiliation or association to any other club,” according to the lawsuit.

For that reason, the three were housed in a unit at the McLennan County Jail separate from other biker groups.

Smith, a heavy equipment shop manager, also is a member of the Line Riders, the suit says.

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TOMMY WITHERSPOON
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