Texas biker sues Waco, officers after deadly shootout

Story highlights

  • County pays thousands to house inmates, at least 50 of whom need public defenders
  • "They've treated us guilty until proven innocent," one of the 177 arrested bikers says
  • Nine people died in the shootout in Waco, Texas; another 18 people were injured

Waco, Texas (CNN)Matt Clendennen is grateful to be out of jail, but he is struggling to hold his life together.

He was one of 177 people arrested after last month's biker brawl in Waco, Texas, which left nine people dead. All the suspects face charges of engaging in organized crime, with bonds set at $1 million each.
Clendennen was able to bond out Tuesday, but almost all the other bikers remain behind bars in what he calls a gross overreaction by police.
"I committed no crime. I did nothing wrong," the 30-year-old told CNN's Ed Lavandera. "I just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time."
So he's taking officials to court.
In a civil lawsuit, filed last week by F. Clinton Broden of the Dallas-based firm Broden, Mickelsen, Helms and Snipes, Clendennen names the city of Waco, McLennan County and individual officers involved. Broden later amended the lawsuit to include District Attorney Abelino Reyna, who he accused of violating his client's Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.
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"Reyna needs to be held responsible for his efforts to destroy the United States Constitution in Waco, Texas, and for his reckless comments in the news media made to promote his office at the expense of innocent persons," Broden said in a statement.
Reyna's office declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing the ongoing investigation in the criminal case.
Clendennen's suit claims he was at the Twin Peaks restaurant on May 17, but "did not engage in any criminal activity while at Twin Peaks on that day nor did he travel to Twin Peaks on that day with the intent to engage in any criminal activity nor did he anticipate that any criminal activity would take place."
Clendennen, a member of the Scimitars Motorcycle Club, said his detention has had serious consequences on his life.
As the owner of a landscaping business, he said he's lost income while behind bars. He and his wife share two children, and he also supports two other children from a previous marriage.
"I'm one of the first to get out. There are still well over 150 there. How long will they be there? How many can't post these outrageous bonds and provide for their families? I had to post $100,000 bond to get out," he said.
"It's outrageous. Families are struggling."

$7,426 a day to 'feed and care'

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Waco police spokesman Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton declined to comment on the specifics of Clendennen's suit.
"We wouldn't have a reaction to the opinion of people of which we have probable cause to put in jail," he said. "Pretty commonplace for arrestees to complain about being arrested. And yes, our investigation is continuing, and the justice system is working in the way it should."
As of early Wednesday, only 19 of the 177 bikers had bonded out (more were expected to post bond later Wednesday), and it's safe to say the investigation into last month's brawl and shootout is putting a strain on more than the Police Department's resources.
The McLennan County Sheriff's Office is paying $47 a day, per inmate, for "feed and care," Capt. John Kolinek said. That means the Sheriff's Office as of Wednesday was paying $7,426 a day for 158 jailed bikers and the grand total for 16 days is more than $120,000.
Cathy Edwards, the county's indigent defense coordinator, said she has interviewed between 80 and 85 of the bikers and planned to interview a dozen more later Wednesday. The 12 to be interviewed Wednesday had their initial application for indigent defense denied because of income, assets or both.
So far, she said, she has appointed 45 to 47 attorneys to represent the bikers, and a judge in the case has cleared five more bikers to be represented by public defenders. She declined to comment on whether the deluge of cases has overburdened her office.
"I've been busy. Let's just put it that way," she said.

'Vicious criminals'

Swanton has said a coalition of motorcycle groups had reserved the outdoor bar area at Twin Peaks when "an additional biker gang, who was not invited to this meeting, showed up."
"When those individuals showed up, there was a disturbance in the parking lot," he said.
Swanton has described the bikers at Twin Peaks as "vicious criminals."
"They were not here to drink beer and eat BBQ," he said. "They came with violence in mind, and they were ready for it."
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But William English said it's ludicrous to think he and his wife went to Twin Peaks expecting trouble.
"Do you think I would want to take my wife to some place I know there was going to be shooting?" he asked. "Do you think I would want to be in a place where there was a shooting? I was in combat. I don't want to be shot at anymore."
Like other bikers who were at Twin Peaks, English said he and his wife, Morgan -- members of the Distorted Motorcycle Club -- were at the coalition meeting to discuss topics such as biker safety awareness and pending state legislation.
Then the melee broke out.

'That is not due process'

William and Morgan English were both arrested, but they didn't know until days later what had happened to each other.
"It was absolutely tearing me up not knowing how she was doing," William English said.
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Morgan English said she thinks police unfairly judged all the bikers as a whole.
"I couldn't understand in my head. What did I do wrong? What did we do wrong? Why were we being held like this? Why is there a million dollar bond? Why are (they) saying I'm a hardcore criminal? None of it made sense."
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While the couple are not part of Clendennen's civil suit, William English also said the mass arrests were unfair.
"They've treated us guilty until proven innocent. That is not due process. We should be treated innocent until proven guilty," he said.
If "you had something that says that we were guilty, then charge us. Keep us. But because you think, oh, we're just going to blanket everybody and hold them, and that way we can see if they've done anything, that is wrong."