Last Updated on May 21, 2015 – 11:43 PM CDT
Above: Oddissie Garza, 18, a hostess at Waco’s Twin Peaks restaurant, finds herself out of work and eight months pregnant. (Peter Holley/The Washington Post)
‘I was supposed to be there,’ says Twin Peaks waitress who switched shift on the day of biker shooting
Two days after nine people were shot and killed at the Twin Peaks restaurant here, Oddissie Garza can’t seem to shake a single, unnerving thought:
“I was supposed to be there,” she told The Washington Post on Tuesday as she lingered on her porch in a solemn mood. “That keeps running through my mind. I was supposed to be right there at the front where all the fighting was.”
Garza, an easygoing 18-year-old with a shock of pink hair, was often the first person customers saw when they walked into Twin Peaks. She began working at the new restaurant in September as a waitress and was promoted to hostess five months later, placing her just past the front door at the restaurant.
“It was my first job, and I was nervous in the beginning, but I found out I had a bunch of sisters in plaid,” she said, referring to the servers’ infamous uniform. “After I got pregnant, I kept this job because of the other girls.”
When she thinks about Sunday’s violence she is less concerned with her own safety than the person she would have been carrying with her. Garza is eight months pregnant with a baby boy, a fact that may have saved her life, she said.
After a long shift on her feet Saturday night, Garza’s legs were swelling and she asked a co-worker if they could trade shifts the next morning.
Her co-worker agreed. The next time she heard from anyone at the restaurant was when they were locked in a freezer as gunfire erupted. Garza got a call from her mother saying something — possibly a shooting — had occurred at work. She immediately texted her friends at Twin Peaks, hoping the rumor was some sort of joke.
A response arrived moments later at 12:55 p.m.:
“The biker guys started shooting” her co-worker texted back from the freezer.
Seven minutes later another text arrived:
“Yes bro it’s blood everywhere and shooting.”
A minute later, she received a final message:
“Most likely a lot of people got shot.”
Garza estimated that about 20 employees were at Twin Peaks on Sunday. The female staffers, Garza’s co-workers later told her, were rushed into the freezer by the cooks after the fighting began. Some waitresses were near the kitchen, but others were further away near the patio, where authorities maintain shots were fired. Before they escaped the escalating violence, Garza said, the waitresses even managed to grab “Bill,” a beloved older customer who is a regular at Twin Peaks and was nearly caught in the melee.
“They girls I’ve talked to are still upset,” she said. “They’re hurt, they’re sad, but it could have been way worse.”
The Waco franchise has been heavily criticized by authorities after the sports bar packed with rival biker gangs — and police — erupted in violence and turned the Central Texas Market Place into what Swanton called “the most violent crime scene I have ever been involved in” with “blood everywhere” and weapons and shell casings, too.
While admitting she isn’t privy to the official investigation, Garza urged people withhold judgement about the franchise’s management. Unruly customers with a few too many beers in their system were not exactly uncommon at Twin Peaks, she said, but nothing that suggested serious trouble was imminent. Bike Nights, a weekly feature at the Waco location, that attracted large crowds had always gone smoothly, she added.
“We get a lot of bikers in the restaurant and they’re usually some of the nicest customers,” she said. “As the hostess, anyone who wants to talk to management goes through me. I never spoke to the police or heard warnings about bike gangs. If there were warnings, the girls, the cooks and the barbacks didn’t know about it. We were just doing our job.”
Asked how he would respond to the Garza’s assertion, Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, a Waco police spokesman, told The Post on Tuesday that police bypassed Twin Peaks staff when discussing potential gang threats.
“We had conversations with management and we wouldn’t have talked with a waitress about it,” he said. “We dealt directly with management.”
Garza may not have been aware of police warnings, but some of her co-workers claim they were. On social media, some Twin Peaks employees have posted sharply-worded statements indicating the management was warned by authorities about gang threats and chose to ignore those warnings at the expense of the staff.
Less than 24 hours after the deadly violence at the Waco Twin Peaks, a spokeswoman for the Dallas-based chain told the Tribune-Herald that “the Waco location will be closed and will not reopen.”
As the franchise’s Facebook page disappeared and the restaurant on Jack Kultgen Expressway was removed from the list of Twin Peaks locations across the country, the spokeswoman, Meghan Hecke, said it was unclear what would happen with the building at the Central Texas Market Place, or with a second Twin Peaks operated by the same group that owned the Waco franchise.
What is clear is that Garza and the rest of her co-workers are suddenly out of work. Some have begun looking for work, but many more staffers have been unable to retrieve their wallets and phones from their vehicles, which remain behind a police barricade in the restaurant parking lot.
Garza has bills to pay and a child on the way. She’s applied for a job at a local candy factory, but fears her pregnant belly will deter hiring managers. On Saturday, she had a job she loved. Now, she has no idea what the future holds. Still more troubling, she said, is the unexpected break-up of her “Twin Peaks family,” as she calls them.
“We were a family,” Garza told The Post. “I brought my ultrasound photos to work to show everyone. The managers and the girls supported me and my pregnancy. They taught me how to work hard. It was just a good place and now it’s all gone.”