Local News

Cockfighting Raid Results in 145 Arrests

Posted January 22, 2007 11:50 a.m. EST
Updated January 22, 2007 4:42 p.m. EST

— State and local authorities raided a cockfighting pit at a Mecklenburg County farm Sunday afternoon and arrested 145 people, authorities said.

About three-quarters of those arrested are North Carolina residents, authorities said.

North Carolina made cockfighting a felony in 2005. It is a misdemeanor in Virginia, and only then, if it is associated with gambling, authorities said.

Authorities were tipped off to the cockfighting ring early last year and investigated the case for seven months in an operation named "Grit and Steel." The bust happened at a facility in the 2000 block of Redlawn Road.

The Humane Society of the United States, officers from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police and agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture participated in the raid.

More than 126 birds were seized, and others were found dead, scattered around the property. About 10 children were present, including one estimated to be 4 years old, authorities said.

Authorities also seized a large amount of cockfighting paraphernalia, including metal spurs and gaffs; illegal drugs, including cocaine, crack and marijuana; and approximately $40,000 in cash.

Among those arrested, 22 people have been detained by Homeland Security for being in the country illegally; 10 people were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor; and two arrested on charges of identification fraud.

Seven of those arrested were determined to be members of various organized Mexican gangs, Mecklenburg County authorities said.

“By taking down this operation, we hope to send a message to our citizens and anybody from outside our county who thinks they can come here to engage in this criminal pursuit that cockfighters are not welcome,” Mecklenburg County Sheriff Danny R. Fox said in a statement.

“It’s a cruel, illegal activity that acts as magnet for other criminal acts involving weapons, drugs, violence and gambling, and we urge our state legislators to give law enforcement the tough penalties we need to deter this," Fox added.

Lawmakers have introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature to make cockfighting a felony in the state.