Tibbits trial day 4: Organized crime specialist testifies against biker indicted in fatal shooting
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - An organized crime specialist testified Friday in the continued trial of a Waco man indicted in the fatal shooting of an Arp motorcyclist.
Joshua Ray Tibbits, 32, was arrested on May 6 of 2020 for engaging in organized criminal activity in connection with the death of Brandon Edwards. Edwards had been found shot to death at the scene of a motorcycle crash in Arp on May 2, and a following investigation led to the arrest of Tibbits and two others. Tibbits is accused of being a part of the “Cossacks,” a motorcycle gang. The prosecution claims that Tibbits shot and killed Edwards because Edwards, as a member of the “Cossacks 1%” was impersonating a member of the “real” Cossacks gang. The state said that Tibbits and at least one of his co-defendants were shooting at Edwards from the truck, though they said determining which man fired the killing shot does not matter, as each shooter had the intent to kill.
In previous trial sessions, Tibbits’ co-defendants, both of whom previously pleaded guilty to charges of engaging in organized crime and are serving 22-year sentences in prison, gave testimony that provided new details about the incident where Edwards was killed. Several witnesses on the scene of the crime gave their testimonies as well.
On Friday, a Texas DPS agent specializing in organized criminal activity took the stand to testify on behalf of the state. The agent stated that the ugly man Cossacks, of which Tibbits and his codefendants were members, meets the Texas definition of a criminal street gang. According to the agent, the Cossacks 1%, of which Edwards was a member, was founded around 2016. Both groups occupied the same area, and it was established previously that the original ugly man Cossacks had a standing rule to “smoke” members of the 1%, who they reportedly view as counterfeits.
The agent compared the “cuts,” or biker jackets, of the rival gangs and contrasted the patches they bore along with their meaning. The two cuts are made up of the same colors, which the agent said the Cossack 1% took from the original ugly man Cossacks upon splitting. The agent emphasized a patch on Tibbits’ jacket which said “black eyes and apple pies,” which he said is a merit patch for committing an act of violence. According to the agent, the patches give more reason to believe that the ugly man Cossacks is a criminal street gang, along with Tibbits’ tattoos.
The agent then called back to a violent incident in Gilmer in February of 2020, which he labeled an organized and premeditated criminal act. He said Tibbits was involved in another shooting in Marion County as well. The agent said that he had interviewed Valenzuela, one of Tibbits’ codefendants in the shooting of Edwards. According to the agent, Valenzuela had explained that the three men were in Smith County to recover a cut from a member who had left the Cossacks. On the way, the agent said, they came across Edwards in his Cossacks 1% cut and wanted to “mess with him.” The agent said Valenzuela had also told him the specific location of the cement bucket containing the guns used in the Gilmer shooting in the Sabine River, where it was later recovered by law enforcement.
Upon questioning by the defense, the agent stated that he did not know when Tibbits became a Cossacks member. The defense argued that there is an inconsistency with the cement bucket timeline, but the agent was able to clear up the dates of discovery and transportation. According to the agent, Griffin, Tibbits’ second codefendant, admitted that the guns in the bucket belonged to him. The defense then brought up the Texas Gang Threat Assessment which is used to identify and evaluate the threat of gangs and gang-related crime in Texas. The defense said that the ugly man Cossacks are not identified in the 2018, 2017, 2015 and 2014 issues of the article.
The state argued that the agent was using a statutory definition of criminal street gang to determine whether or not to try someone for engaging in organized crime. The agent said he bases this on activity and whether or not it meets the criteria of the charge. The state then addressed the defense’s argument about the Texas Gang Threat Assessment, and said that there are many gangs in Texas, the largest of which would take precedent over motorcycle clubs. According to the agent, the ugly man Cossacks’ lack of inclusion in that assessment raises no red flags. The agent said that while it is not a crime to be a part of a criminal street gang, the commission of criminal activities withing the gang can warrant an engaging in organized crime charge. The state argued that even though there may be some undocumented evidence of Tibbits’ criminal activity, he can still be found guilty of the charge.
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