PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - With hundreds of roosters seized, the Washington State Gambling Commission says this weekend's bust of a cockfighting operation is one of the largest in recent memory. The agency released photos and videos of a raid from June 2 in which it says more than 24 people were detained or taken into custody.
According to the agency, authorities raided a house located on a remote stretch of roadway on Southeast Edmonds Street in Port Orchard. Authorities say cockfighting was staged at the rural property along with breeding and betting.
Harry Mertell lives near the property and said the single-lane dirt road was lined with police around 1 p.m. Saturday and blocked his driveway. An officer told him "they were raiding a cockfight back there... That was the first time I even knew that the police knew there was cockfights going on back there.”
Mertell said authorities focused on one house with more than 300 roosters. Mertell said he knows the man who owns the property and that he's been there for over 20 years. “I knew he raised fighting cocks, but he shipped them overseas, or at least I thought he was doing that,” Mertell said.
WSGC spokesperson Heather Songer said law enforcement had worked for four months on an investigation into the cockfighting ring. “This is a pretty large operation. We don't come across the fighting rings a whole lot in our area,” she said, adding that complaints from neighbors started their investigation.
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Andra Behmer suspects the fights have been going for five years and was concerned with crowds that authorities say would come for as many as 20 fights.
“I don't know why they didn't do something about it a lot sooner because we've known about it for a long time,” Behmer said.
Behmer said cars coming down the dirt road to the property were common. “At night we saw a lot of lights and everything...I just don't like the neighborhood filling up ... I'm an old cowgirl and I like out in the country,” she said.
Authorities arrested Kenneth Castro San Nicolas and Joe Salas. Songer also said there could be more charges for the 27 who were detained. “Any time you have people gathering to conduct any type of illegal activity, there's concerns there will be other crime involved,” Songer said.
Authorities say many of the fighting cocks had to be euthanized because they were given steroids and trained to be aggressive. Mertell said authorities were right to take action. “I'm glad it's gone. I don't believe in that, to me that's cruelty to animals.”
WSGC said officials took samples from the gamecocks that will be tested for disease.
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