Nine people have been killed and another 18 injured in a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs in Waco, Texas.Fighting broke out in the bathroom of the Twin Peaks restaurant before spilling into a car park as the bikers attacked each other with clubs and knives before pulling guns, Sgt W Patrick Swanton told local TV station KWTX.
Pictures from the scene show bodies lying in the car park, which was filled with motorbikes and bikers apparently tending to an injured member of their gang on the back of a pickup truck.
At least 18 people have been confirmed injured, most with knife or gunshot wounds, Sgt Swanton said.
Sgt Swanton also described the interior of the restaurant, saying it was littered with bullet casings, knives, a club, bodies and pools of blood.
Some witnesses have been moved to secure locations, while some of the injured are being treated in hospitals outside the area for their own safety, according to police.
Locals are being asked to avoid the Central Texas Market Place as police said they were concerned about gang members moving to other parts of the city to continue the confrontation.
“This is probably one of the most gruesome crime scenes I’ve ever seen in my 34 years of law enforcement,” Sgt Swanton said.
“I was amazed that we didn’t have innocent civilians killed or injured.
“This is not something we’re playing around with. This is a major crime scene… It is a pretty gruesome scene.”
Police told the Waco Tribune-Herald that officers were monitoring a meeting between two gangs when the violence erupted.
The force said on Facebook that no officers were injured in the shooting outside the restaurant, without immediately providing further information.
More than an hour after the shooting, police warned that they were still having to arrest bikers who were turning up at the scene with weapons.
Paul Gadley from KWTX said shots had been fired at police, who had fired back during the incident.
He said the authorities had been aware for some time of the possibility of trouble brewing between rival biker gangs.
He told Sky News: “We’ve been hearing noise about such a thing being imminent for several weeks.
“Waco Police had been keeping a close eye on this restaurant, especially on Thursday night, when they have so-called biker night.”