Texas biker says civil rights suit is about accountability

Posted at 2:08 PM, Jun 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-16 11:30:27-04

The biker behind the lawsuit against the city of Waco, its police department, and McLennan County, held a press conference Monday to maintain his innocence and tell the public how his arrest after the Twin Peaks shooting has affected his life.

The Waco police chief's news conference Friday sparked the biker, who filed a civil rights lawsuit against police, the city and county, to hold a news conference of his own Monday afternoon.

During the news briefing, Matthew Clendennen's attorney, Clint Broden, announced they now plan to add Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman to their complaint.

He maintains his innocence despite being a member of the Scimitars, a motorcycle club that supports the Cossacks. The Cossack's are one of the clubs police identified as a violent biker gang. Clendennen says he joined the Scimitar's several years ago for the camaraderie and the charity that his club does every year.

Clendennen says although he was at Twin Peaks wearing his club's vest with a Cossack patch on the front, he didn't know violence would break out nor did he participate or encourage any violence that day. His attorney says they have the polygraph test that proves it. He says he had been to many Confederation of Club meetings in the past and nothing like what happened May 17 has ever happened before.

The shootout between bikers and police that left nine dead, 18 other injures, and led to the arrests of 177 bikers.

He says he's just one of many bikers wrongfully arrested. He spent 17 days in jail before being released on $100,000 bond.

Clendennen says having his mug shot and name associated with what happened has wrecked his personal and professional life.

"To see how quickly such a careless response from all aspects of the justice system and how quickly it can ruin something you worked so hard for,” says Clendennen.

Clendennen says though he hasn't lost any business since his arrest, he is now fighting for custody of his kids from a previous marriage. All of this, he says has changed how he see's the criminal justice system.

"There was injustice done here and somebody needs to be held responsible for this. I do believe that in the end, the justice system will prevail and that the truth will come out."

Clendennen hopes everyone named in his suit will one day admit to their mistakes but says until then, his life is a struggle one day at a time.

After Clendennen spoke, attorney's for three other bikers arrested shared similar feelings about the number of bikers arrested and the $1 million bonds.

Clendennen's attorney, Broden says they will likely add more bikers to their lawsuit against the city and county in the future.

Associated Press

HEWITT, Texas (AP) - A Texas motorcyclist arrested with 176 others after a melee at a restaurant that left nine dead said Monday he had nothing to do with the violence and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit to address "carelessness from the justice system" that has tarnished his reputation.

Matthew Clendennen told The Associated Press that while filing the suit may draw unwise publicity while he is facing charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, there "needs to be accountability. Law enforcement, the district attorney, they need to answer to this."

The suit names as defendants the city of Waco, McLennan County, District Attorney Abel Reyna and Waco police officer Manuel Chavez, who drafted the warrant for Clendennen's arrest. Reyna declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Clendennen's attorney, Clint Broden, said the "fill-in-the-name warrant lacked probable cause."

The 30-year-old former firefighter said his image has been "dragged through the mud," jeopardizing his landscape lighting business and affecting a custody battle over two of his children.

"I've spent a long time building a reputation, and to see how easily such carelessness from the justice system can ruin something, it's been overwhelming," he said at a news conference.

Clendennen said he was sitting on the patio of Twin Peaks, the Waco restaurant where a motorcyclist meeting was to take place last month, when he heard a large group of bikes roll into the parking lot. An argument began, and minutes later, Clendennen said, he heard the first shot.

Without looking to see who fired, Clendennen said, he took cover in a hallway inside the restaurant and had nothing to do with the violence that ensued. While inside, he heard "constant fire," he said.

The shooting began after an apparent confrontation between the Bandidos, the predominant motorcycle club in Texas, and the Cossacks, according to investigators. Hundreds of weapons - including 151 firearms - were recovered.

Those arrested were held on a $1 million bond on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, and more than 50 are still being held. Clendennen was released from jail after two weeks when his bond was reduced to $100,000.

Clendennen said the Scimitars motorcycle club, of which he is a part, is "a group of hard-working men who enjoy motorcycles and giving back to the public."

At Twin Peaks, the police escorted Clendennen past the scene of the shootout, where he saw several bodies, including the body of a friend, Daniel Boyett, a member of the Cossacks motorcycle club. A preliminary autopsy report said Boyett died of gunshot wounds to the head.

"It was completely surreal," he said.

Witnesses have said they thought they heard automatic weapons during the shooting. Investigators haven't said who fired the fatal shots.

Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman said last week that city officers had disabled the automatic setting on their rifles, and that most of the dozens of shell casings found at the scene were from suspects' guns.

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