Stone County officers hope bust sends message to cock fighters

Some birds returned to owners; others will go to refuge

WIGGINS

Six roosters staked out behind the Stone County jail on Friday were what’s left of a cockfighting raid last weekend.

Even in late morning, they were crowing and strutting like they owned the place.

But the signs along their path warned jail employees to beware, with exclamation marks.

Inmates on the back porch were getting a kick out of the feisty, colorful little prisoners, feathers shining in the sun, roped to keep them apart.

“They’re loud,” one man said. “But they’re alright.”

These will go to a nearby animal refuge. Another 18 to 20 went back to their owners, people who were arrested Sunday at a home at the end of a dirt road in rural southeast Stone County.

Law enforcement got a tip on the fight Sunday. They believe now that there have been others.

It’s a tight-knit group that participates in the blood sport. And they’re tight-lipped, since fighting gamecocks is illegal in Mississippi.

There were 42 people arrested Sunday, but only seven or eight were from Stone County. Chief Deputy Phyllis Olds rattled off where others were from — Marion County, Pass Christian, Jackson County, Vancleave, Pearl River County, George County, Purvis, Louisiana and Alabama.

When they got the tip, two deputies went. Overwhelmed by the number of people participating, Adam Guidry said he and his fellow deputy played it cool and friendly until backup arrived.

On the scene, Olds decided to follow state law to the max and arrest everyone, spectators, participants and all. It took all the vehicles, deputies and handcuffs she could muster, but they took everyone in, booked them and allowed them to make bail.

Sheriff’s deputies and agents with the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks confiscated anything used in the fights and the betting. They collected illegal steroids, portable pens spattered with blood, bottles of pure ephedrine and metal spurs with leather bands to strap to the roosters’ legs.

Some who were arrested had surgical kits to keep roosters fighting.

There was a pile of dead roosters, about 20 to 25, Olds said.

Guidry said they were planning on barbecuing them, it was part the event.

Feathers and blood were all around. There were old feathers in the ring, Olds said, an indication of previous fights.

“We got lucky on this one. It’s hard to catch ’em,” Guidry said. “It’s very organized. When caught, most of them say it’s just a rooster show. For us, pulling up and catching them in the middle of a fight, that was icing on the cake.”

Deputies found a wounded and dying rooster still in the ring with spurs attached on Sunday. They say this case should be easy to prosecute.

Lacking experience, Olds looked for counties dealing with cockfighting and found few. One agency that euthanized the birds it confiscated, was sued by the owners and ordered by the court to compensate them for the loss, she said.

Olds never planned on killing the birds.

“They paid the fine, so we gave them back their property,” she said. “I didn’t give them the spurs and things. I just gave them their roosters.”

They’re expensive birds, Guidry said. Some have thousands invested in them.

The steroids make them more muscular and the ephedrine is a strong drug that increases their heart rate and makes them more aggressive.

Roosters have their combs cut off to make them harder to hold and their spurs are replaced with blades and icepick-like weapons so they tear each other, puncturing lungs, poking out eyes and even decapitating opponents.

People booked had thousands of dollars in their pockets, Guidry said. He and Olds estimated there was $20,000 to $25,000 at the fight.

Guidry said the person whose rooster won stood to win thousands.

Olds looked over a yellow sheet with circles, numbers and lines drawn from one circle to the other and said one of the men explained to her how the betting works.

But she was mostly interested in learning what she needed to stop it from happening again in her county.

She particularly didn’t like seeing children at the fight.

Next time Stone County will be even better prepared, she said. Deputies will confiscate the money and add animal cruelty charges.

As it was, Guidry said those being arrested were trying to coax law enforcement into just letting them pay a $100 fine and leave with their belongings. After all, it’s only a misdemeanor in Mississippi.

Olds said no.

They all posted bail from a bonding company. With fine and court costs, the total was close to $500 each.

Eight had paid by Friday, Olds said. The others will go to court. Olds made it hard on them. It was a long Sunday, she said.

“I had people say, ‘Ma’am, I’m never going to come to your county to fight again’,” she said. “I said, ‘That’s the point.’”

By KAREN NELSON – klnelson@sunherald.com
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