Federal lawsuit takes aim at the bikers arrests and indictments
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Austin claims arrest affidavits, warrants and subsequent indictments against bikers involved in the Twin Peaks shootings were based on untruths and fabrications.
Nine bikers died and 20 were injured in the May 17, 2015 shootout between rival biker gangs and police at the Waco restaurant.
Diego Obledo, of San Antonio, through his lawyer Don Tittle, of Dallas, filed the 34-page lawsuit petition in U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks’ court asking various levels of damages for violations of Obledo’s 4th and 14th Constitutional Amendment rights.
Tittle is serving as Obledo’s lawyer in the lawsuit only while a Waco attorney was appointed by 54th District Judge Matt Johnson to represent Obledo in the criminal case.
In the introduction of the petition, Tittle says the action was brought “arising from the unlawful arrests that occurred in Waco, Texas on May 17, 2015.
“The mass arrests were unprecedented in both their scope and complete absence of individual, particularized facts to establish probable cause.”
The lawsuit names Waco police Chief Brent Stroman, Officer Manuel Chavez, McLennan County District Attorney Abelino Reyna and an unnamed Department of Public Safety officer as defendants.
It seeks damages including compensatory and actual damages, exemplary damages, attorney’s fees, court costs and interest allowed by law for pre- and post-judgment interests “in an amount deemed sufficient by the trier of fact to compensate (Obledo) for his damages …”
There are at least six other lawsuits naming the same list of defendants filed in the same court on very similar grounds by Matthew Alan Clendennen, Burton George Bergman, Noe Adame, Jorge Salinas, John Venzel and Robert Clinton Bucy, all bikers who were arrested in connection with the Twin Peaks shootings and all seeking like damages.
In the body of the Obledo petition the plaintiff suggests his arrest was unlawful because the warrant upon which he was arrested was issued “based entirely on (Obledo’s) presence at Twin Peaks, the motorcycle club that the defendants presumed an individual was associated with, and/or clothing they were wearing at the time of the incident.”
Tittle charges the documents used to arrest individuals “contained material misrepresentations” that later were presented as facts.
“In a press conference following the mass arrests, Stroman verbally stated that he was responsible for the decision to make the mass arrests”
But Tittle also says in a separate paragraph that Reyna “took the unusual step of assisting law enforcement officials in the investigation and it was he who ordered the arrests on a “cookie-cutter” affidavit that he and his assistants prepared.
“It is indisputable that the affidavit in question does not set forth particularized facts against (the) plaintiff that would establish any probable cause … despite the United States Constitution requiring a particularized showing of facts against an individual before a warrant can issue,” Tittle writes.
Chavez, Tittle says, acknowledged he read the template affidavit and inserted the names of individuals off a list he was given, and “Chavez testified in at least one examining trial that he did not, in fact, possess personal knowledge of all assertions made in the affidavit.”
“Chavez swore under oath that he had personal knowledge of the information contained (in the affidavit), even though he did not.”
Tittle says the affidavit states his client was a member of a criminal street gang, in spite of the fact he was not, and in fact was not a member of any motorcycle group or club at the time of the incident.
The defendants knew, or should have known that Obledo was not engaged in any criminal activity at Twin Peaks on the day of the shooting and “video evidence in (the defendant’s) possession clearly and unambiguously proves that plaintiff did not participate in, nor did he encourage the disturbance that escalated into violence.
“In fact, the video evidence proves plaintiff was not involved, yet the defendants acted in direct contravention of the video evidence and caused plaintiff’s constitutional rights to be violated.
Tittle points out that the violations resulted in his client’s incarceration for 30 days after the event before he could be released on bond.
The petition also says evidence that could have proved his client was not involved was intentionally withheld from the grand jury that eventually indicted him.
As well, Tittle says, testimony presented in grand jury was based on a flawed investigation that police knew was not factual when the testimony was presented and that resulted in a faulty indictment.
“Had this evidence been shown to the grand jury, it is reasonable to believe that plaintiff would not have been indicted.”
As further evidence of a tainted grand jury, Tittle points out testimony during the session included reference to a man named William Anderson, who prosecutors said was killed during the gun battle at Twin Peaks.
But, Tittle says in the petition, Anderson was neither killed nor wounded during the exchange of gunfire and, “in fact, is very much alive and well today.”
At the time Reyna explained the references to Anderson were a clerical oversight.
“The ‘evidence’ presented to the grand jury was wholly inaccurate, misleading … intentionally false and misleading in the most material ways.”
Obledo, as Tittle points out, lost his job as a real estate analyst for USAA in San Antonio, is married and the father of six children.
In summation, the lawsuit says Obledo’s 4th Amendment right to due process and his 14th Amendment right to unlawful seizure or arrest were violated at the most basic levels.