Police arrested 17 men and confiscated 59 fighting cocks during a raid Sunday afternoon on the home of Juan Carlos Gomez Fierros in Gold Bar, a tiny town near Monroe in Snohomish County. According to court documents, Fierros raised dozens of roosters and had cockfighting supplies shipped to him from Mexico.
The snitch reportedly said that Fierro "raises, trains, and actively participates in rooster fighting," and hosts the clandestine events in a garage next to his house at 44710 Pine Road in Gold Bar. Fierro also allegedly "has supplies for the rooster fighting shipped to him at his residence from Mexico."
Cockfighting pits two roosters against each other in a brief but bloody battle to the death. The handlers strap razor-sharp steel spurs to the birds' talons, and these blades are the primary equipment Fierros allegedly imported.
On September 22, police got wind of a cockfight that was scheduled to take place near the intersection of Highway 525 and Highway 99 in Lynnwood. On September 25, the investigators staked out the location and watched as several SUVs they had seen previously at Fierro's house began to arrive with roosters in tow.
The informant told his handlers that the big winner that day was a man named Arturo from Monroe. When police searched Arturo's home on October 18 looking for stolen property and unlicensed guns, they found a trove of cockfighting paraphernalia. According to court documents, the haul included a dozen razor blades, bird feathers, and a "fake stuffed rooster" used to train the animals for the ring.
View Larger MapA few days later, police got wind of the fight in Gold Bar via their source. During the raid, many of the attendees tried to flee on foot but were sniffed out by the K9 unit. In addition to the 59 roosters, investigators found a makeshift arena made from plywood, along with razors, vitamins, and medical supplies for the birds.
A search of the property turned up a freshly dug hole that would have been used to bury the losing roosters. Instead, it seems all the birds will be put to death. According to the probable cause statement, a cockfighting specialist from the Humane Society recommended that all the animals seized during the raid be euthanized.
One suspect, 24-year-old Alejandro Vargus admitted to police that he paid an entrance fee and planned to gamble on the fight. Another, Avelino Angel-Vera, had been booked last year for attending a cockfight in Whatcom County.
The ATF assisted in the operation, but a spokesperson for the agency says there is no link between Fierros and the family of drug-dealing cockfighters busted last month in a federal sting in Auburn.
Unfortunately for Fierros and his cockfighting friends, Washington has some of the stiffest cockfighting penalties in the country. It is a class C felony that comes with a maximum five-year sentence and $10,000 fine. Being a spectator at a cockfight carries the same penalty as owning and fighting the birds.
Animal fighting was made a federal felony in 2007, but according to Terry Mills, an animal fighting specialist with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the bloodsport is experiencing a renaissance in this country.
"We get reports of cockfighting from literally all over the county," Mills says. "In general, someone could pin it to Hispanic community but it's not just tied to them at all. We've got it here in the Midwest, and primarily in the southwest and southern states, California -- there's really not a place we don't get it."