There are two surprising bits in this story from the Waco Trib.
A visiting judge ruled Monday that authorities had sufficient probable cause to arrest a pistol-packing chaplain for the Bandidos motorcycle group.
Lawrence Yager, a 65-year-old minister from Buda who said he is chaplain for the Bandidos and two veterans groups, at his Monday examining trial challenged the authority under which he was arrested after the May 17 Twin Peaks shootout.
The first is that the Bandidos motorcycle club has a chaplain. It’s not so much that the club may indulge, on rare occasion, in activities that could possibly be considered contrary to religious teachings. Motorcycle clubs can do that sometimes. Especially when the club picked the name “Bandidos” to capture its essence.
It’s that, well, the devotion to the deity of choice is really kinda sweet. And perhaps, given some of the things they are accused of doing, it’s a wise choice to keep a channel to the Lord as close at hand as possible.
But for the man who undertook the rather difficult job of herding these sheep, there were unanticipated risks of damnation. Maybe not by God, but by a visiting judge.
Visiting Judge James Morgan heard testimony from two officers for about 45 minutes before ruling that there is sufficient evidence to bind Yager over for grand jury consideration of the engaging in organized criminal activity charges.
And these two officers told the story of how Yager did . . . nothing wrong.
Key testified that officers found numerous handguns, rifles and shotguns in the Toyota Avalon that Yager drove to Waco that morning.
Officers also found that Yager was carrying a .44-caliber revolver and a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol on his belt when he was detained.
To some ears, this sounds pretty darn damaging, except for the detail that every gun was lawful and Yager possessed a concealed carry permit. So he had guns. Lawful guns.
Yager’s attorney, Landon Northcutt, of Stephenville, argued after the testimonies of Department of Public Safety Lt. Steven Schwartz and Waco police Detective Sam Key that neither officer could offer evidence that Yager conspired to commit murder, assault or any crime that day.
The chaplain wore a Christian t-shirt, not gang colors. He had two guns on him because he’s allowed to, and this is Texas. He had others in the trunk of his car because his home had been burglarized and he wanted to keep them out of the hands of bad dudes. All of which amounts to “so what?”
After the shootout, in which nine were killed and 20 were wounded, Schwartz said the restaurant and surrounding area were littered with weapons.
“It was like a tornado went through a gun and knife store,” Schwartz said.
And what does this have to do with a 65-year-old retired minister, Vietnam vet, named Lawrence Yager? Everything or nothing, according to whether it’s just too much to think about or evidence of nothing.
Plaguing the Twin Peaks shootout are two twin evils. End up with nine dead bodies and surely someone must have killed them. There is a strong contention that the “someone” was police, who may well have killed and wounded them all, or most, or at least some, but turning an eye inward would make the police look awfully bad, stupid and venal.
Not as if Waco hasn’t had that experience before, but it was bad for real estate values. Slightly charred compounds were going for dirt cheap for a while there.
Instead, the police employed the “arrest them all and let god sort them out.” Not Yager’s God, with the capital “G,” but the small “g” one wearing a robe. Hey, the cops just haul the possible bad guys in, and it’s up to the legal system to sort out the criminals from the people against whom there is no actual evidence, but just some generic taint. Let the judge snort it.
Except judges are then left to make hard calls, decisions that may well cause someone to point the finger at them when the question gets posed by the ignoranti: How did those biker killers get away with it?
Well, maybe it’s because those bikers weren’t the shooters in the first place. There may well have been guns everywhere, but that doesn’t mean they were used to shoot anyone, kill anyone. There are methods now to match up bullets to guns. We don’t have to guess and pretend, go with the speculation that best suits the official narrative. We have the ability to actually know the answer.
And even if it turns out that the dead bodies aren’t all a product of the cops’ shots, that doesn’t mean everyone present can be swept up in some big mass of shooters. This is the problem of too many defendants, not enough evidence. The public really hates this part of the law, as it’s way too hard to wrap one’s head around the notion that even if we know, with absolute certainty, that a crime occurred, we still need to have proof that a particular person committed that crime.
Can there be a dead body, well over 100 potential defendants, and not one against whom evidence exists to prove he was a killer? You bet. Every time a case develops with a large group of potential defendants, we sweep them together, apply broad, generalized accusations to all without any differentiation, and shrug off the details. Somebody did it, so screw ’em all.
But in America, each and every individual defendant is entitled to a fair trial based upon his or her own conduct, not being tossed into a pile and tarred with generic allegations. Yes, that may well mean that there isn’t sufficient proof against any individual to convict them for a crime. That’s what proof means.
And Lawrence Yager will now face trial, having prevailed at the “examining trial” on the facts, but having lost when Judge James Morgan decided that this retired minister wasn’t worth the effort of having the guts or brains to admit there wasn’t any proof that he had committed a crime.