Suspects in cockfighting operation in Gold Bar appear in court
Seventeen men face animal fighting charges after arrests in Gold Bar, and several are being held for the U.S. immigration agency.
A detached garage served as a fighting pit with plywood walls and a single cage. A cockfighting expert from the Humane Society of the United States identified battle gear that included razor blades typically attached to roosters' feet.
At one end of the property was a freshly dug hole police believe was going to be used to bury the vanquished birds.
Seventeen men were arrested for investigation of animal fighting. Most made appearances in Everett District Court on Monday. At least half were being held in the Snohomish County Jail for U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents.
The Sky Valley Enforcement Team, a special investigative unit made up of officers from Monroe and the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, made the arrests about 12:30 p.m. Sunday with help from the south Snohomish County SWAT team and Lynnwood police.
Court records show the investigation began in early September when an informant told police that rooster fighting was occurring in multiple locations around Snohomish County.
The informant told police that one of suspects raised and trained roosters at a home in the 44100 block of Pine Road in Gold Bar.
The Gold Bar home was not the only spot in Snohomish County suspected of being used for cockfighting competitions where bets are made as roosters slash each other to death.
In October, police did surveillance of a home in the 3500 block of Lincoln Way near Lynnwood where rooster fighting was believed to have occurred.
That same month police searched a Monroe home for suspected stolen property and firearms. During the search, they also observed rooster-fighting equipment, including packaging for razor blades the featured the image of a rooster. Police also noticed pictures, posters, hats and belt buckles related to rooster fighting and a fake stuffed rooster believed to be used for training birds to fight.
During Sunday's raid, a cockfighting expert from the Humane Society of the United States identified several razor-type blades typically attached to the roosters feet for fighting. Also seized was medication, vitamins, medical supplies and cages used for the roosters.
One of the men arrested Sunday had been arrested when police shut down a cockfighting operation last year in Whatcom County.
Marcia Foreman, a neighbor of the Gold Bar home hit Sunday, said heavily armed officers could be seen in camouflage uniforms and carrying rifles. She heard an officer shouting to the people on the property that police had search warrants.
The rural community has a block watch program but Foreman never expected there would be rooster fighting in her midst.
"My nephews and I were out working in the back yard," she said. "At first we thought it was a prank going on. Rooster fighting was not at the top of my list."
Roosters apparently had been prepared for a fight prior to Sunday's arrests. The birds had metal talons attached to their feet, officials said. Staff from King County Animal Control, another animal shelter from Seattle and representatives from the Humane Society were on hand to remove the birds from the property.
In 2008, a Snohomish area property was raided as part of a cockfighting investigation. Police found dozens of birds that were being raised, trained and sold.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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