A Texas jury on Thursday began deliberating the fate of a motorcycle club leader who could face life in prison for his role in a ferocious gunbattle that left nine bikers dead.
Jake Carrizal, who heads the Dallas chapter of the Bandidos, is charged with directing criminal activity that led to the deadly brawl between members of the Bandidos and Cossacks at Twin Peaks Restaurant in May 2015.
Carrizal is one of more than 170 bikers arrested following the shootout — and the first of 154 who were indicted to face trial. The jury's decision could have a major impact on those cases.
Prosecutor Michael Jarrett, in his closing argument, said the Bandidos "controlled the state of Texas in the biker world." He said robbery, drug dealing and violent crime were commonplace among the group's members. He called the Waco gunfight a "massacre."
"This was destined to happen, there was going to be a war," Jarrett said. "The Bandidos are in fact a criminal street gang."
Defense lawyer Casie Gotro dismissed the Bandidos' criminal legacy as the distant past. She described Carrizal as courageous, saying he had to fight to defend his father, brothers and friends who also are Bandidos members.
"He couldn't even get off his bike before he was swarmed and surrounded," she said.
How it all began:
In gripping testimony this week, Carrizal, 35, said he arrived at the Waco restaurant for a Bandido meetup and was surrounded by members of the rival Cossacks club. A fight quickly broke out.
"They swarmed me," Carrizal testified. "I remember fighting and kicking and just trying to get away or get them off of me."
He said they ripped the shield off his helmet and attempted to punch his face with brass knuckles.
Surveillance video shows someone pointing a gun at Carrizal and firing. Carrizal, who was not hit, admitted pulling out a derringer and firing its two rounds.
Carrizal testified the Bandidos had no plans to confront the Cossacks that day. Prosecutors say the Bandidos went to the restaurant looking for a fight. They say Carrizal told the Bandidos to bring "tools" — weapons — to the restaurant.
Carrizal denied prosecutors' claims that the Bandidos are a criminal organization and said the group does not condone violence. Carrizal, who drives a train for a living, said he has never been in trouble before.
"I'm being judged by everyone in here," he said. "I can expect no mercy from society. I am a Bandido and I'm looked at like a criminal so I expect no mercy."
The bad blood between the two groups was no secret to law enforcement officials, and police officers were on the scene before the shooting started. Two weeks earlier, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a bulletin on the issue.
"Violence between members of the Bandidos OMG and the Cossacks MC has increased in Texas with no indication of diminishing," according to the bulletin. "The conflict may stem from Cossacks members refusing to pay Bandidos dues for operating in Texas and for claiming Texas as their territory by wearing the Texas bottom rocker on their vests, or 'colors' or 'cuts."
Seven of the nine people who died were members of the Cossacks, authorities say. Carrizal's father was among the 20 people wounded. More than 300 weapons were recovered from the scene, including guns, brass knuckles, knives and clubs.
"I know you are blaming us for this event, but I don't blame us," Carrizal testified."I don't blame the cops for it. (I blame) the club that surrounded us that day, that had no business being there."
© 2018 USATODAY.COM