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"Public Safety" Concerns Cause Cancellation Of North Texas Biker Rally

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PALO PINTO COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - The gun battle in Waco, involving members of several motorcycle groups, has raised concerns for law enforcement agencies across Texas. There was so much worry in Palo Pinto County that a weekend biker rally there has been called off.

For more than a decade, the Cossacks Motorcycle Club has held a rally in the small town of Mingus, about 70 miles west of Fort Worth. But in light of recent events Sheriff Ira Mercer said he contacted the president of the club. "I expressed to him our concerns, locally and in the North Central area of Texas, about actually holding this rally in light of what happened in Waco. They reluctantly agreed to cancel it."

Sheriff Mercer said recent events in Palo Pinto County fueled their concerns about possible violence between the Cossacks and the Bandidos. "About a month and a half, two months ago, we had an assault down here on the interstate at one of our local truck stops where four people pulled up, jumped out and attacked one of the Cossacks with a hammer," he said adding, "We just had that [Waco] kind of activity going on and a lot of talk, and a lot if intel, telling us that there's bad blood between those two groups."

While the Sheriff asked that the Annual Cossacks MC Mingus Blowout be called off for public safety reasons, he admitted that in all the years the event has been held there has never been any violence. He said, "This is their 14th anniversary of this event and historically we've had very few problems with them, other than the normal, run-of-the-mill stuff."

Jeff Massey, the Chief Operations Officer with the American Motorcyclist Association, said he knows the events in Waco could have citizens looking at all bikers negatively. "Whenever something like this does happen it certainly casts a negative light on all motorcyclists. Here at the AMA we certainly want to change peoples perceptions and it doesn't help when things like this happen."

Massey said what happened in Texas is a rare thing. As for the AMA, he said the organization has been around for 90 years, has more than 215,000 members nationwide and is known for their philanthropic work. "All of our members predominately, that are part of clubs – our chartered clubs, promote responsible riding. They do tons of charity work, raising hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars."

♦♦♦ See The Mugshots Of Some Of The Suspects In The Waco Gang Shootout ♦♦♦

Members of biker groups in Texas and across the country know that they often have to fight a good versus evil perception with the public. Massey said U.S. biker groups are still very misunderstood, but he has advice on knowing how to spot friendly bikers. "One simple way is if you see the AMA patch on their vest you know that they're part of the 'good guys.' Certainly if they hold an AMA charter they are in good standing. You're not gonna find an AMA chartered group that is participating in anything like what happened in Texas."

Back in Palo Pinto County, the Cossacks have put up signs announcing the cancellation of their annual rally. But Sheriff Mercer says stragglers may come in and he's working with federal and state law enforcement to put to whole county on alert. "I feel like there could possibly still be some people come in that either didn't know about the cancellation or just came to see what's going on. We want to make sure that we have a presence there in the area to deal with anything that may arise."

Mingus has a population of about 250 people and the Cossacks always hold their 'blowout' on a 20+ acreage off of Parsons Road.

Concerns after Waco has also resulted in Quaker Steak and Lube in Plano cancelling their weekly "bike night." A manager there said they would discuss the future of the event in the next weeks.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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