The San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office was tipped off to an incident of animal cruelty around 4:37 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, on the 100 block of Maxine Road in the Cleveland area of San Jacinto County. The property is located within the Oaks Forest Subdivision off of FM 2025.
A patrol sergeant and two patrol deputies arrived on scene and reportedly observed approximately 250-300 individuals in plain view either observing and/or participating in a large scale illegal cockfighting operation. Deputies were able to detain 19 subjects. The remainder of the subjects on scene fled into surrounding woods, abandoning approximately 100 vehicles on scene, which caused responding deputies to call for back-up.
“Initial responding deputies also observed in plain view a large wooden permanent covered structure with a round wooden cock fighting arena, temporary wooden bleachers, lawn chair seating, and a working kitchen/concession stand all located under the permanent structure. Also located under the covered structure were various items of gambling paraphernalia including a dry erase board documenting various fights/matches between birds that indicated some 44 matches/fights had already taken place earlier in the day,” according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.
After the arrival of back-up deputies and responding investigators, they reportedly located additional cockfighting paraphernalia and numerous roosters were observed all throughout the property in and around numerous vehicles and trailers.
A total of 96 live roosters were ultimately located and seized from dozens of vehicles, cages, and transport boxes on the ground throughout the property and from four custom transport trailers that were equipped with wooden pens, lights, and air conditioning.
Cockfighting paraphernalia including gaffs (razor sharp miniature knife like objects that are affixed to the roosters’ natural spurs to cut and/or stab the opposing rooster during a match/fight), wax string, surgical and electrical tape used for wrapping gaffs, vitamins, steroids, and other drugs, syringes, food, cages, and other forms of cockfighting paraphernalia reportedly were located in dozens of vehicles and the four custom trailers.
Deputies and investigators also observed several dozen dead roosters located adjacent to vehicles and/or trailers where live roosters were also located. Several roosters were found still wearing gaffs in their cages.
The San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office reports the following outcome to the investigation:
- 96 live birds were seized and a seizure hearing is pending for the final disposition/custody of the birds.
- 19 subjects were arrested on scene for observing and/or participating in cockfighting. At least seven are believed to be undocumented aliens;
- A total of 75 vehicles were towed from the scene;
- 43 vehicles were seized and are pending forfeiture proceedings;
- Four custom utility trailers equipped for storing/transporting birds have been seized and are pending forfeiture proceedings;
- 22 vehicles that were towed from the scene have been or will be released back to registered owners;
- Five fully loaded semi-automatic pistols were seized from vehicles with cockfighting paraphernalia also present;
- A small amount of marijuana was located and seized from two vehicles with cockfighting paraphernalia also present.
- A total of approximately $22,096 was seized from the 19 arrested subjects with one subject found to be in possession of $6,000. The subjects with the larger amounts of cash were found to be the registered owners of vehicles that were seized and allegedly contained cockfighting paraphernalia.
- Of the 19 subjects arrested on scene, 18 of those were charged with misdemeanor “observing” cockfighting.
- One subject was charged with felony participating in cock fighting.
- One subject was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance penalty group 1 (cocaine) less than 1 gram.
“This is an ongoing investigation with a large amount of investigative work yet to be conducted. The San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office is working diligently to identify the suspects that fled the scene which were either participating in the cockfighting and/or animal cruelty, as well as those that were there to observe the cockfighting and/or animal cruelty. Those found to have been at the scene will be charged to the maximum extent the law allows,” the statement continues.
The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement was contacted regarding the arrest of the subjects suspected to be undocumented immigrants. ICE reportedly refused to place any immigration holds on any of the undocumented aliens that were arrested and charged.
“We have identified at least five suspects that will likely be charged with multiple felonies as this investigation continues. Charges could include, but are not limited to: Felony Animal Cruelty, Felony CockFighting, Misdemeanor Illegal Gambling, Misdemeanor Unlawful Carrying a Weapon, Felony Engaging in Organized Crime, and federal charges of Unlawful Possession of Firearm by an Undocumented Alien.
“Animal Cruelty will not be tolerated in San Jacinto County. All evidence, summaries and facts of the case will be presented to the San Jacinto County District Attorney’s Office and subsequently, a grand jury, to determine if any more charges will be filed in this case,” the statement from the sheriff’s office continues.
Names and Charges are captioned on each booking photo. (Note: The following persons do not currently have a booking photo available for release:
-Ortuno-Ortega, Jose / Charge: Attending a Cockfight
-Miranda-Perez, Emigdio / Charge: Participating in a Cockfight
-Rios-Martinez, Narciso / Charge: Attending a Cockfight