Since the tragedy of the “Waco Biker Shootout,” too many questions remain unanswered. The surveillance video from Twin Peaks has only been viewed by the Associated Press. The Waco Police Department had received the video two days prior to the A.P., but when asked if they had seen it, they simply replied they had not. Not sure why they would say that, all things considered.
Requests from the media via public information requests which is allowed under state law and under the Government Code in Texas has been denied. Granted, there are exceptions to the Code such as pending investigations or if releasing information would interfere with the investigation or prosecution, but information is released all the time with pending investigations. At this point, not releasing the video and/or information is likely causing more of an interference.
The media as we all know is relentless in their pursuit of a story and they have the power to sway public opinion. Ignoring media requests not only causes them to speculate, but will result in creating more hype. The Waco P.D. has done Press Releases but the only difference between a Press Release and complying with public information requests is that they are able to control the information being disseminated at a Press Release.
Yahoo news has been able to receive some information, however, that information contains redacted material. Recently, the Waco City Attorney’s Office wrote a letter to the Texas Attorney General seeking a formal opinion on the matter. I even made a request but of course, expect a denial too, which begs the question- why not just release the video?
The Waco Shootout is quickly becoming a series of tragedies. It began with the deaths of nine bikers. Then came the issues with Justice of the Peace Peterson and the excessive bond.
JP Peterson could have simply issued bond at a lower amount and if he was wrong, the District Attorney’s Office could have simply amended the charges accordingly based on all the evidence they reviewed including the Twin Peaks surveillance video. Whatever crimes have been committed and caught on video, will not change the outcome for those committing the crimes and with video to back up those charges, this would be much more effective than witness testimony.
Of course, the witnesses could change their story come trial time, and that happens because of a multitude of reasons, but, they already took their statements and any contradictions would be shown by the State. For those that did not participate in any criminal activity, the results won’t change for them either. They will have the charges either dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense(s) if need be, and they can proceed to clear their names.
Eventually, the surveillance video will be released, especially if this ends up in trial, but that could be a year or two or more before that happens. I wonder if even private defense counsels have had a chance to review the videos? Probably not, because if the surveillance videos show their clients did not commit any crimes, then motions for dismissal would have been filed by now.
Instead, attorneys are still fighting the bond issues with some hearings scheduled for August. Judges make exceptions all the time and hold emergency hearings. Does this case not qualify as an emergency? Can this not be sped up? Want to find a quick way to speed up the process; release the video!
What is the harm in releasing the Twin Peaks surveillance video? The best way to move forward is to release the video to satisfy the needs of the public and the media. Social media and 24/7 news access only increases that need. The media is already referring to this incident as Waco II. The County of Waco and its residents do not need nor deserve another black eye in their history. Releasing the video would bring out the truth much sooner.
We can all agree that whomever committed crime(s) that day, deserves to face the consequences of the criminal justice system. The surveillance video would show most if not all, of what we all wish to know.
For now, we are dependent upon the Associated Press’ writing on the subject, which coincidentally, contradicts what the Waco Police Department and what Sergeant Swanton has been claiming all along.
If the Waco P.D. is right, then good for them and hats off to the entire department for doing a great job. It will also go a long way in improving their public image which for now could use some improving.
In addition, the story would become moot at that point. If the video contradicts the Waco P.D., well, they will have to face those demons some day, and from a legal and financial perspective, it’s better to do that sooner than later.
Even one writer for the Houston Press has predicted that future law enforcement agencies will use this incident in their handbooks as to how not to handle similar situations. Unfortunately, people only learn from their mistakes. We all hope and pray that no further mistakes are made.
Release the video. Everyone has waited long enough.