WACO, Texas – Bullets ricocheted around the parking lot of Twin Peaks, the Waco restaurant where a motorcycle gang shootout left nine dead, minutes after Theron Rhoten pulled in on his vintage Harley chopper for a regional motorcycle club meeting, according to Rhoten's wife.
Katie Rhoten told The Associated Press that her husband, a mechanic from Austin, called her from jail and said that he and two other members of a motorcycle club called Vise Grip ducked and ran for cover amid the violence that also left 18 injured.
The three were arrested along with about 170 others at the scene and are each being held on $1 million bonds.
Officers took into custody all sorts of "nonviolent, noncriminal people," Katie Rhoten said.
"He's good to his family," she said. "He doesn't drink; he doesn't do drugs; he doesn't party. He's just got a passion for motorcycles."
It's not clear how long the bikers will remain in custody. They have all been charged with engaging in organized crime.
"Unless they try to make some other arrangement to move them through it more quickly, it could be weeks and possibly months" before the jailed bikers have bond-reduction hearings, said William Smith, an attorney who has met with several of the inmates.
It's also unclear whether the McLennan County district attorney will require outside help to prosecute all those arrested Sunday.
District Attorney Abel Reyna brought in prosecutor John Bradley for appeals in a capital murder case in 2014. Bradley was voted out of office as the Williamson County district attorney after opposing the exoneration of Michael Morton, who was imprisoned for 24 years for a murder he didn't commit before DNA testing cleared him.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara and Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton declined to comment Tuesday on allegations that innocent bikers were arrested.
The eight members of Theron Rhoten's group, the Vise Grip Club, specialize in building and riding vintage and antique motorcycles, particularly pre-1970 Harley Davidson big twin choppers, according to spokesman Brian Buscemi.
Police have said five biker gangs from across Texas had gathered at the restaurant on Sunday, in part to settle differences over turf.
Buscemi disputed that claim, saying groups had planned to discuss laws protecting motorcycle riders at the meeting, which he said has been going on bimonthly for 18 years.
"Yes, there was a problem at this scene, and it was absolutely horrific, but there just also happened to be a significant amount of people there who had nothing to do with it," Buscemi told the AP.
Jimmy Graves, who described himself as an ambassador for the gang known as the Bandidos, said his group had no intention of engaging in a scuffle.
But he acknowledged that differences with other groups, such as the Cossacks, have been "simmering and brewing."
The U.S. Justice Department said in a report on outlaw motorcycle gangs that the Bandidos "constitute a growing criminal threat" in a report on outlaw motorcycle gangs. The report said the group is involved in transporting and distributing cocaine and marijuana and in the production and distribution of methamphetamine.
Another biker named Johnny Snyder also said he was at the restaurant for a scheduled meeting to talk about legislative issues.
Snyder, a long-haul trucker, declined to describe what he saw inside the restaurant, saying he was only concerned with "not getting shot."
He is vice president of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club in Waco, a group that Snyder says does charity events and family gatherings and is not a criminal gang.