WACO, Texas — A shooting involving rival biker gangs at a Central Texas restaurant has left nine people dead and some others injured.
Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton says eight people died at the scene of the shooting at Twin Peaks restaurant about noon Sunday and another person died at a hospital. All are believed to be bikers.
Swanton says the fight began with punches and then escalated to knives and firearms.
“In my nearly 35 years of law enforcement experience,” Swanton said, “this is the most violent and gruesome scene that I have dealt with.”
To escape the fight, some restaurant customers and employees took cover in the freezer, according to CNN affiliate KWTX. The station reported that more than 100 weapons were recovered, and Waco police said officers were continuing to arrest people arriving with weapons.
Swanton told reporters that a total of 18 people were taken to the hospital. It was not immediately clear whether that figure included the person who died.
He says police were aware that gang members were gathering at the restaurant and officers were present when shots began.
“There were at least three rival gang groups here this morning for whatever reason. As they were here, we had officers on scene. We expected issues,” said Swanton, who later said that there were actually five different biker gangs present in the restaurant.
Police say that earlier disputes between the gangs revolved around recruiting and turf issues.
Some of the officers fired on bikers as the shooting spilled from the restaurant into a busy parking lot. Patrons and bystanders dove for cover.
“(Police) action has saved lives in keeping this from spilling into a very busy Sunday morning,” said Swanton. “Thank goodness the officers were here, and took the action that they needed to take to save numerous lives.”
No officers were hurt in the incident.
Swanton expressed anger at the management of Twin Peaks, which he claims has been less than helpful in dealing with gangs in the past. He declined to identify the specific groups involved in Sunday’s shooting.
“Are we frustrated? Sure. Because we feel like there may have been more that could have been done by a business to prevent this,” Swanton said.
A photo from the scene showed at least two people wearing what looked like biker jackets on the ground. It was not clear why they were prone on the pavement. Police were standing nearby along with other people wearing biker jackets.
CNN and the Associated Press contributed to this report.