The Chicago Tribune reports that three people were shot to death at a cockfight in Texas Thursday, April 19, 2012. The shooting occurred in a small Texas town called Edcouch, which sits about 25 miles from the Texas-Mexico border. Police investigators say that several gunmen stormed the cockfight wearing masks and opened fired. Three spectators were killed and another eight were wounded. A local newspaper reported that the spectators were ambushed while the cockfight was going on behind a rural farmhouse.
Cockfighting in Texas is unfortunately not uncommon, happening in rural and urban areas alike. Police say that trying to reign in the bloody sport has been difficult. The groups that run these fights keep a tight lid on their activities, making it hard for investigators to get a handle on the sport. Bexar County Sheriff’s Department chief investigator Rey Lujan said that everything involving cockfighting rings is very “hush-hush.” The Sheriff’s department had recently raided a cockfight in San Antonio, which resulted in the confiscation of 100 fighting cocks and about $10,000.
Among many in rural Texas there is a mentality that cock fighting is an acceptable practice, according to Lt. Joel Caldwell with the Galveston Police Department. In December, the Galveston Police Department participated in the raid of a cockfighting ring where more than 300 roosters were being raised and bred for fighting.
The state of Texas has increased the penalties for cockfighting. Last year, the Texas legislature passed a law that increased the penalties. It allows police officers to criminally charge spectators at cockfights. It also allows the police to charge those who let their property be used for cockfighting. State and federal laws apply to those who actively participate in the cockfighting and those who bring the animals to the ring for the purpose of fighting.
Even with the increased penalties, some believe that the law is not strong enough. Belinda Smith, chief of the animal-cruelty division of the Harris County DA’s office, believes that the penalties should be as stiff for cockfighting as they are for dogfighting. There are federal laws pending regarding the problem, which will hopefully prevent the tragedy in Edcouch, Texas from happening in any other place.