17 arrests as cops raid suspected cockfighting ring

17 arrests as cops raid suspected cockfighting ring »Play Video
A SWAT team member investigates the scene of a suspected cockfighting operation near Gold Bar.
GOLD BAR, Wash. - Seventeen men were arrested Sunday and dozens of roosters were seized as police busted a suspected cockfighting operation near Gold Bar, officials said.

The arrests came as SWAT team members raided a residence in the 44700 block of Pine Road on Sunday and executed a search warrant at about 12:30 p.m., catching the suspects by surprise.

Four suspects managed to run off into the woods as law enforcement officials surrounded the residence.

Cash and drugs were also seized, along with more than 50 roosters, as officers combed the property, gathering evidence, said Debbie Willis of the Monroe Police Department.

Authorities said the raid followed a 2 1/2-month investigation. The raid involved members of the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, Lynnwood SWAT team, Monroe SWAT team, the Humane Society and state Gambling Commission.

When officers entered the residence, they found an arena and assorted cockfighting paraphernalia.

"We believe we got there before a fight occurred," Willis said. "One of the roosters was being prepared to put the knives on that are commonly used in this type of activity."

A U.S. Humane Society spokesperson said it appears law enforcement personnel arrived in the nick of time.

"We found more than 50 gamecocks who were bred to fight to the death with knives tied to their legs,” said Eric Sakach, senior law enforcement specialist for The Humane Society of the United States. "These birds suffer violent injuries such as punctured lungs or gouged out eyes and are often left to slowly die."

Officials said it appeared the suspects were ready for an all-day party of cockfighting, gambling and drugs.

The 17 suspects were taken to Snohomish County jail for booking. A juvenile found at the scene was released to the custody of his parents.

Watching or taking part in cockfighting is a Class C felony in Washington state punishable by up to five years in prison or up to a $10,000 fine.