HOUSTON – A Texas woman is asking for $350 million in damages after alleging in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that her civil rights were violated when she was wrongfully arrested in the wake of a deadly 2015 gun battle involving bikers at a Waco restaurant.
According to the lawsuit, Morgan English, 32, and her husband William were set to attend a meeting in May 2015 of several motorcycle clubs from around the state when they got caught in the shootout.
The suit said the couple does not belong to any biker gangs but were wrongly identified as such by police.
Nine people were killed and 20 people were injured in an apparent confrontation between the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs and police outside of a Twin Peaks restaurant.
English and her husband had just arrived at the restaurant when the shooting began and they quickly took cover, according to the lawsuit.
Randall Kallinen, one of English's attorneys, described his client as a hard-working bank teller and a "motorcycle enthusiast" who went to the club's meeting to discuss pending motorcycle legislation in Texas on safety and insurance.
"She did not know anything about any animosity between (the biker gangs). She didn't have a weapon," he said. "She talked freely with police afterward. She told them everything. She wasn't hiding anything."
The lawsuit names McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, former Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, Waco police officer Manuel Chavez, the city of Waco and the county of McLennan as defendants.
Reyna did not immediately return a call on Wednesday seeking comment. Waco police Sgt. Patrick Swanton, a department spokesman, said his agency does not comment on pending litigation.
English and her husband were two of the 177 arrested and were each held on a $1 million bond on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity.
The charges against English and her husband lapsed before the case could be presented to a grand jury for indictment, Kallinen said. But the charges could be refiled, he added. There have been at least 155 individuals who've been indicted.
Kallinen said English's husband has not filed a lawsuit but might do so at a later time.
At least 10 individuals who were indicted in the case have filed similar lawsuits, while at least 12 individuals who haven't been indicted also filed lawsuits.
Last year, a judge denied a motion on behalf of two bikers to have Reyna removed from the case. The bikers' attorneys had argued Reyna had overstepped his authority in having so many individuals arrested.
The first trial resulting from the deadly shooting is set for April.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70