Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi is bloodied & drone lost in Wayne National Forest––a federal jurisdiction
WATERLOO, Ohio––Ambushed by at least four alleged assailants while sending a Showing Animals Respect & Kindness (SHARK) drone aloft to videotape the crowd at what he told ANIMALS 24-7 was by far the biggest cockfight he had ever investigated, SHARK founder Steve Hindi on the morning of January 3, 2021 suffered a broken rib and head injuries requiring six surgical staples.
Hindi was treated at the St. Mary’s Medical Center in nearby Ironton, Ohio, and released in early afternoon.
Among the first casualties of the attack was the destruction of the drone controller, leaving the drone in mid-air to continue videotaping and relaying a GPS location signal until the batteries powering it ran out of electricity perhaps hours later.
The crashed drone appears to have been recovered by the suspected cockfighters.
Alleged cockfight was on in-holding
The indicated location was Wayne National Forest property, a federal jurisdiction, near 366 Wiseman Cemetery Hill Road, an in-holding agricultural property where a large concentration of vehicles of suspected cockfighters had already been videotaped.
The site is about a mile west of Waterloo, Ohio, in Lawrence County near the Jackson and Gallia County lines.
Voter registration records identify five residents of 366 Wiseman Cemetery Road:
Jimmie Harris, age 23, and four individuals named Newcomb: Hannah, Rebecca, and two individuals named James, ages 22, 42, 20, and 53, respectively.
Unclear is whether any of these five people were actually present or involved in the alleged cockfight.
Truck driver blocked escape
The four-or-more men who jumped Hindi also tore a body camera off of him and smashed a Sony camera he was carrying, apparently not realizing they were generating more potential evidence against themselves while committing further criminal offenses, Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7.
Escaping a blizzard of boots coming from all directions, Hindi said, he fled to the nearest road and asked for help from the driver of a tractor-trailer rig who had just backed across the road in front of him.
The driver instead positioned the rig to keep the road blocked, while the attackers caught up and resumed beating and kicking Hindi.
Second SHARK investigator was run off the road
Again shaking himself loose, Hindi tumbled down a steep slope to nearby Johns Creek, where he found cover and hid until his cell phone rang, informing him that a second SHARK investigator in the vicinity had been run off the road by suspected cockfighters.
The suspected cockfighters looted the wrecked vehicle and smashed a variety of camera and drone equipment that the vehicle was carrying.
The third SHARK investigator, in a different vehicle, was already en route to get help in person, since there seemed to be no local cell telephone reception.
The Ohio State Police responded to an accident report, but turned the criminal investigation over to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department.
The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department had been tipped that the cockfight was expected to occur, but was not on the scene.
FBI and USDA-APHIS have authority, if they use it
As in the attack on Hindi himself, the attackers who ran the second SHARK investigator off the road left more clues to their identities than they realized––if, that is, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies are inclined to do their jobs.
Since Wayne National Forest is mostly federal property, administrated by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the primary law enforcement jurisdictions would appear to be those of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service.
The FBI and USDA-APHIS share responsibility for enforcing the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007. This law made cockfighting and cockfighting-related activities occurring on property under federal jurisdiction a federal felony offense, as is cockfighting-related activity that crosses state lines.
Collusion with cockfighters
Recent Showing Animals Respect & Kindness investigations in the region, chiefly just to the south in Kentucky, have turned up repeated instances of law enforcement personnel apparently colluding with cockfighters, instead of preventing or breaking up cockfights and making arrests.
Having obtained a schedule of cockfights purportedly to be held at the Pinemountain Game Club in Big Laurel, Harlan County, Kentucky, from November 28, 2020 through June 2021, SHARK shared the information with Kentucky State Police Post 10, the nearest to Big Laurel, along with extensive further information, and understood that Post 10 would act to stop the December 19, 2020 cockfighting card.
“Our investigators were told that this cockfight would be shut down,” recounted a SHARK media release.
Instead the cockfights occurred as scheduled, uninterrupted, while three police cars in convoy were seen cruising slowly past the Pinemountain Game Club without stopping.
Two cockfights apparently not held
The number of people at the Pinemountain Game Club, indicated by the number of parked cars at the remote location, was clearly more than 10 times as large as the maximum size for social gatherings and more than four times the maximum size for gatherings at indoor recreation facilities, venues, event spaces, and theaters announced in response to COVID-19 concerns on November 18, 2020 by Kentucky governor Andy Beshear.
The next Pinemountain Game Club cockfighting card was scheduled for Saturday, January 2, 2021, but as SHARK personnel observed, the building remained closed and dark.
Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7 that SHARK personnel apparently succeeded in persuading law enforcement to stop another cockfighting event from taking place on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2021 in nearby McCreary County.
Alleged cockfighters were seen arriving and setting up, only to leave soon afterward after a visit from a police cruiser.
What did the Wayne National Forest ranger corps know?
ANIMALS 24-7 has inquired as to whether the Wayne National Forest ranger corps had previously become aware of illegal cockfighting going on there.
ANIMALS 24-7 also asked the Wayne National Forest ranger corps if there have been previous incidents within the forest in which birders, hikers, and others using drones or camera equipment were violently accosted.
The Wayne National Forest ranger corps responses, if any, will be reported when received.
Longtime criminal pursuit, not cultural tradition
Despite the frequent pretense of cockfighters that cockfighting is a regional tradition, the weight of historical evidence indicates that it has never been more than a deeply entrenched criminal pursuit.
University of Kentucky historian Joseph R. Jones in “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Recovering the History of Cockfighting in Kentucky,” published in the Winter 1997 editor of the Kentucky Review, https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/232574292.pdf, noted that “The excellent new Kentucky Encyclopedia (1992) does not even contain the word cockfighting in its survey of the sports of Kentuckians ancient and modern.”
This confirmed the complete absence of cockfighting from any mention in the works of Kentucky’s most eminent folklorist, James Taylor Adams (1892-1954), who actually spent most of his life in Big Laurel, almost within sight of the Pinemountain Game club, built so recently that the building does not appear on all current satellite-generated topographical maps.
Waterloo Wonders were basketball legend
Waterloo, Ohio, meanwhile, a 200-year-old unincorporated community in southeastern Symmes Township, is near the very center of the Wayne National Forest, federally designated in 1934, and is today chiefly associated with hiking, camping, birding, off-highway vehicle use, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Earlier, Waterloo was legendary among sports buffs as home of the Waterloo Wonders, who won Ohio state basketball championships in both 1934 and 1935, despite the Waterloo high school, closed in 1960, having had only 26 students.
Wrote Thomas Kunkel of the Wonders in the February 6, 1995 edition of Sports Illustrated, “Imagine the Harlem Globetrotters. Now imagine them as five short, white, teenage farm boys.
Ran up a 94-3 record
“In two remarkable seasons,” Kunkel continued, “Waterloo played nearly 100 games, winning all but three, most of them on the road against much bigger schools. In one stretch the team won seven games in nine days; it boasted a 56-game winning streak.
“At a time when basketball was still in its formative, stand-around stage, with a center jump after each basket, the Wonders were like five Depression-era Bob Cousys, mesmerizing opponents and audiences alike with their ball handling, complex offensive schemes, trick-shot artistry and good-natured pranks.”
One team member accepted a basketball scholarship, attending Rio Grande College and Ohio University.
The others turned pro, barnstorming against the Globetrotters, the Harlem Rens (formally called the New York Renaissance Five), the Philadelphia Sphas, and the New York Celtics, whom they beat in their third meeting before a Cleveland crowd of 7,000.
“Inadequate punishment could make Ohio a haven for cockfighting”
The Waterloo Wonders won extensive news coverage, but while the players told many a colorful story of their backgrounds, none ever so much as mentioned cockfighting or roosters in any context.
Neither does the major newspaper serving Lawrence County appear to have ever had any sympathy for cockfighters.
Editorialized the Ironton Tribune on April 16, 2008, when it last addressed the subject, “Inadequate punishment for cockfighting and an absurd federal lawsuit [later thrown out of court] that aims to legalize the repugnant enterprise of animal fighting could make Ohio a haven for cockfighting and, consequently, a national laughingstock.”