WACO, Texas – A judge declared a mistrial Friday in a case involving a leader of the Bandidos biker gang after jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked in the first trial stemming from the deadliest shootout between biker groups in U.S. history.
Jurors had deliberated for 14 hours in the trial of Christopher “Jake” Carrizal, the president of the Bandidos’ Dallas chapter. Carrizal had testified that a rival biker club, the Cossacks, provoked the May 17, 2015, brawl and gunfight at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco that left nine bikers dead.
The mistrial leaves unclear the prospects faced by other defendants charged in the shootout. Experts had been looking toward a verdict from the Carrizal trial as an indicator of how solid the government’s cases against other leaders and dozens of members might be.
Local police arrested 177 bikers after the mayhem, and more than 150 people were eventually charged.
No retrial for Carrizal was immediately scheduled. Calls to the prosecutor’s office after State District Judge Matt Johnson declared the mistrial rang unanswered.
Carrizal was charged with directing the activities of a criminal street gang and two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity with the underlying offences of murder and aggravated assault.
Testifying in his own behalf, Carrizal told the McLennan County jury that the Cossacks were behaving provocatively when Carrizal’s group arrived at the restaurant for a meeting, and a brawl quickly erupted.
Carrizal said a Cossack was trying to punch him through his safety helmet with brass knuckles when he heard gunshots. He said he tried to reach for the knife in his pocket but couldn’t grasp it. As the fight continued and he was on the ground, he reached for a two-shot Derringer pistol in his back pocket and fired it at a Cossack. When he couldn’t reload, he took cover behind a light pole and yelled for his father, who also was part of the brawl. He said he saw one member of his group lying dead and another bleeding from the head, so he crawled under a truck.
He finally saw two police officers helping his father, who was shot in the shoulder.
The Waco Tribune-Herald reported that in a note Thursday night, the jury foreman reported a juror identified as “Mr. P” told the other jurors he had prior experience with the Cossacks and would not change his mind because of it. That juror has ties to a McLennan County motorcycle shop, which he disclosed on his juror questionnaire in early October.
Biker gangs are a small but violent criminal force in the U.S., with some 44,000 members or associates of a handful of “outlaw” gangs, according to a 2015 FBI report. The Bandidos, founded in Texas, is among the largest of the criminal gangs, along with the Hells Angels and a couple of others.
The Cossacks were considered less violent until the Waco confrontation.
The start of any Waco trials was delayed by the enormous volume of evidence and several bikers’ attempts to have their cases dismissed.
Carrizal’s attorney, Casie Gotro, had complained before and during trial about delays in receiving evidence from prosecutors and law enforcement agencies that she was entitled to.
The issue prompted Gotro to object when the judge instructed the deadlocked jurors on Friday morning that another jury would hear the same evidence if he had to declare a mistrial.
She said the delays in the disclosure of evidence against her client created an “absolute inability to use that evidence to prepare for trial.”
“I believe a second jury is going to hear a very different set of evidence,” Gotro said.
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