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Zamora v. Stroman

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

June 16, 2017




         BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and specifically Defendants Brent Stroman, Manuel Chavez, Abelino Reyna, Jeffrey Rogers, and Patrick Wanton's Joint Motion to Transfer Venue [#6] and Plaintiff Gilbert Zamora's Response [#10] in opposition. Having considered these documents, the case file as a whole, and the applicable law, the Court enters the following opinion and order.


         This is a § 1983 action arising from a violent incident at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas on May 17, 2015. See Compl. [#1] at 1. That day hundreds of motorcycle club members gathered at the restaurant for a Texas Confederation of Clubs & Independents (COC) meeting. See Id. ¶¶ 10-16. During the COC meeting, shooting broke out between some of the bikers. See Id. Law enforcement officers responded to the violence with their own gun fire. See Id. Once the shooting ceased, nine individuals lay dead and at least twenty were injured. See Id. ¶ 17. Based on a single affidavit, law enforcement officials arrested 177 persons, including Plaintiff, and detained a number of other bikers. See Id. ¶ 18. Later, a grand jury in McLennan County indicted Plaintiff and 105 others for the felony of Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity with the Intent to Commit or Conspire to Commit Murder, Capital Murder, or Aggravated Assault. See Id. ¶ 72.

         Plaintiff brings this suit against Defendants Stroman, Chief of Police for the Waco Police Department (WPD); Chavez, a WPD detective; Reyna, the District Attorney for McLennan County, Texas; Rogers, a WPD detective; Swanton, a WPD officer; Schwartz, a special agent employed by the Texas Department of Safety (DPS); and Frost, a special agent employed by DPS. See Id. ¶¶ 3-9. In his complaint, Plaintiff asserts he was wrongfully arrested in violation of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights and alleges Defendants conspired to deprive him of those rights. See Id. ¶¶ 85-105. Specifically, Plaintiff argues the arrest warrant Defendants obtained was based on a "template" affidavit which failed to provide any particularized facts, contained false and materially misleading statements, and conflicted with evidence showing Plaintiff was not involved in the violence. See Id. ¶¶ 42, 53, 84. Instead of particularized facts, Plaintiff states his arrest was based on the alleged fact he was "wearing colors similar" to the colors associated with two of the rival biker clubs involved in the shooting. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff also claims the grand jury indictment was tainted by Defendant Chavez's testimony regarding the affidavit. See Id. ¶ 73.

         Defendants now move to transfer venue from the Austin Division of the Western District of Texas to the Waco Division. See Mot. [#6] at 1. In support, Defendants allege the following venue facts:

• All Defendants work and reside within McLennan County, Texas, which the Waco Division serves. See Id. [#6-1] Ex. D-l (Reyna Affidavit); id. [#6-2] Ex. D-2 (Stroman Affidavit).
• The Twin Peaks restaurant is located in McLennan County. See Id. [#6] ¶ 2.05.
• The bikers' arrests, detention, prosecution, and Grand Jury indictments occurred in McLennan County. See id.
• All of the records and evidence retained and/or considered by the Waco Police Department, McLennan County Criminal District Attorney's Office, the state courts, and the McLennan County Grand Jury are located in Waco. See Id. ¶ 2.07.
• The "vast majority of potential witnesses reside in McLennan County, " including law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judicial personnel, and residents of McLennan County. See Id. ¶ 2.08.
• The federal courthouse in Waco is approximately 100 miles closer to the Waco Police Department and the Criminal District Attorney's Office than the Austin federal courthouse. See Id. ¶¶ 2.09-1.10.
• Proceedings in the Austin Division would burden Defendants, witnesses, and the offices they serve, both in terms of time and expense. See Id. ¶ 2.11.
• Keeping the cases in the Austin Division interferes with Defendants' counsels' ability to effectively represent their clients. See id.

         In response, Plaintiff asserts the following facts relevant to venue:

• Potential witnesses reside across Texas. See Resp. [# 10-1 ] Ex. P-1 (Uribe Affidavit) ¶¶ 2, 8. In particular, of the 244 bikers arrested or detained, only 53 are from Waco; the rest reside in a number of different cities and regions throughout Texas. See Id. Similarly, the law enforcement personnel involved in the investigation included Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers from its Austin headquarters and surrounding cities. See Id. ¶¶ 2, 7.
• Significant evidence is located in Austin and in other parts of Texas other than Waco. See Resp. [#10] at 4-6. DPS officers obtained video recordings of the incident which are likely kept at DPS headquarters in Austin. See Id. The Attorney General's Office of Texas ...

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