Yesterday, news reports offered a stunning headline: apparently, a thousand weapons had been found stashed at the Twin Peaks location in Waco that had been the site of the biker gang fight on Sunday. Waco’s CBS affiliate KWTX tweeted that “Waco police now say they’ve found as many as one thousand weapons at Twin Peaks, including an AK-47. Many were hidden in toilets, food.” It was a staggering claim—and, upon more sober reflection, it turned out to be an exaggeration.
Authorities’ count of weapons found at the scene continued to fluctuate on Wednesday. Earlier in day, [Waco Police Sgt.] Swanton said 1,000 weapons were found. The estimate dropped to about 500, then to 318, Waco police told the Associated Press.
Swanton said he expects the count to keep rising.
Knives, guns, clubs and chains with locks attached to them to use to beat people were among the weapons, he said.
It’s unclear how the number managed to dip by more than two-thirds in the span of a few hours—perhaps the police source meant “a thousand weapons” in a colloquial sense, rather than a literal one?—but it kind of misses the point: 318 weapons is still an absolutely crazy number of weapons to find stashed in a restaurant.
— Cesar Rubio (@ItsCESAR_13) May 20, 2015
What happened in Waco isn’t funny, of course, but the human reaction to the ridiculous is laughter. And the idea that the Waco Twin Peaks wasn’t merely turned into a war zone but a literal armory is hard to react to with a straight face. When guns have been stashed in bags of tortilla chips, and knives have been tucked into bags of flour, considering those logistics leads to scenarios that are genuinely absurd—wouldn’t the crunching of the chips be a tip-off rivals that the biker was going for the weapon? Or would they think he was just after a mid-gunfight snack? Would a knife-wielding biker with an arm covered in flour be more or less intimidating to opponents?
It’s unclear, at the moment, precisely when or how the weapons ended up in the restaurant. Sergeant Swanton told the Guardian that “the number of weapons demonstrated that the event was not planned as a harmless gathering,” which suggests that police believe the weapons were hidden in the restaurant prior to the event. But that also leads to only more questions: with literally hundreds of weapons stashed in the building, did people notice them when using the facilities? When a Cossack attempted to stash a switchblade in the bathroom stall, was he likely to encounter a Bandido’s brass knuckles already taped to the inside of the toilet tank?
The reason why what happened in Waco resonates, days later, as an international story is simple: the implicit promise of a suburban strip mall laden with Best Buys and Bed, Bath, and Beyonds, Cabela’s, Cavender’s, and Kohl’s, is that it is so safe that some might call it boring. The notion that the totems of mundanity—restaurant-sized bags of tortilla chips and breastaurant bathrooms—could be holding an arsenal of guns and knives intended to bring the body count on that Sunday afternoon into double digits is hard to wrap one’s head around. So when you hear about 318 weapons in Waco, you kind of have to laugh. After all, what’s the alternative?
(All photos by Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)