WACO, Texas— Sunday’s bloodbath in this central Texas city laid bare the real-life world of biker gangs: testosterone-fueled and honor-obsessed, a world in which the patches on a vest take on life-or-death significance.

For nearly five decades, the Bandidos Motorcycle Club monopolized the Texas “bottom rocker,” a patch shaped like an inverted rainbow that states a biker’s claim to the Lone Star State.

Smaller clubs also wore the Texas patch, but only with the Bandidos’ blessing. Until another club, the Cossacks, slapped the bottom rocker on their vests without permission. In that shadowy world, it was an unforgivable provocation.

After a series of smaller skirmishes, law enforcement officials say, all-out war finally erupted between the Bandidos and the Cossacks this past weekend in a shootout at a local sports bar that left nine dead, 18 injured and 170 bikers from both sides behind bars. On Tuesday, Waco police warned that Sunday’s carnage was probably just the beginning.

“In the gang world and in the biker world, that violence usually condones more violence,” Sgt. Patrick Swanton told reporters. “Is this over? Most likely not.”

A sense of threat continued to linger over Waco on Tuesday, particularly among the bartenders and waitresses who find themselves serving a lot of out-of-towners these days – and constantly on the lookout for telltale signs of gang affiliation. Sunday’s shootout was the worst outbreak of violence in Waco since the FBI siege of the Branch Davidian compound in 1993.


Meanwhile, authorities released the identities of the dead men, all bikers who died of gunshot wounds to the head, chest or neck, according to a preliminary autopsy report. They ranged in age from Matthew Mark Smith, 27, to Jesus Delgado Rodriguez, 65. A member of the Cossacks club said at least six of the dead were Cossacks.

In interviews and on social media, representatives of both clubs sought to deflect responsibility for the violence. A member of the Bandidos claimed in a statement that his club was attacked Sunday by the rival Cossacks. A member of the Cossacks said his club did no such thing.

“We just want to be left alone. We just claim we’re from Texas. Texas is our home. That’s all we do,” said the Cossack, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “They have a problem with the fact that we won’t bow down,” but “we did not start this. We did not go down there to start this.”

For months, however, trouble seemed inevitable, even to Texas law enforcement officials. Last spring, two Bandidos were charged with stabbing two Cossacks at an Abilene steakhouse. And on May 1, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a bulletin warning that FBI agents in San Antonio had learned that the Bandidos were discussing “the possibility of going to war with Cossacks.”

The bulletin noted that “violence between members of the Bandidos and the Cossacks has increased in Texas with no indication of diminishing.”

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