“From Atoka, head to Redden & turn right”
STRINGTOWN, Oklahoma––Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi imagined on June 26, 2022 that Atoka County sheriff Tony Head took seriously his oath of office to enforce the laws of the State of Oklahoma, including the state law making cockfighting a felony.
Hindi had tipped Head’s office to an alleged cockfight in progress at 17031 Highway 43, near the ghost town of Redden, now consisting only of a cemetery and a schoolhouse closed since 1955.
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness observers had the alleged cockfight under surveillance from multiple locations, including by drone.
Sheriff’s deputies were supposedly on their way.
“Calling all cars”
Then the Showing Animals Respect & Kindness team saw more than 60 carloads of alleged cockfighting enthusiasts rush out of the metal-clad cockpit they had watched for days and speed away.
Someone must have alerted the suspected cockfighters that the sheriff’s office was responding.
The address 17031 Highway 43 is posted at the first long driveway west of Redden, on the south side of the road. The driveway leads to “pit property owned by Kimberly Lynn Baughman,” Showing Animals Respect & Kindness posted on June 28, 2022, after researching the land deed.
“Purpose-built for cockfighting”
“The cockfighting pit is managed by Robert Ray Baughman,” Showing Animals Respect & Kindness continued.
“We are told that this massive cockfighting arena was purpose-built for cockfighting by Kim and Rob Baughman about one year ago,” Showing Animals Respect & Kindness said, “after we exposed the cockfight operation a few miles away at Montana Dodd’s,” on May 1, 2021.
“With Montana Dodd’s pit spoiled for them, they moved to this new ‘secret’ location.”
The alleged cockfighters also fled on May 1, 2021 before sheriff’s deputies arrived. Someone must have warned them then, too.
(Showing Animals Respect & Kindness has posted their own video version of the episode here: https://youtu.be/AVjmVvb0pDg.)
Steve Hindi has questions for Head of law enforcement
Emailed Hindi on July 5, 2022 to Tony Head, first elected Atoka County Sheriff in 2013,
“On Sunday, June 26, 2022, I personally went to your office in Atoka and reported an ongoing cockfighting at 17031 Highway 43, Stringtown. The only communication I had was with people from your office.
“The cockfighters were subsequently informed about our presence by someone from your office. The cockfighters were given time to get off the property and escape arrest. Interestingly, a very similar situation occurred a little over a year earlier at another pit in Atoka County,” Hindi noted.
“Cockfighting is a felony in Oklahoma”
“The main difference in the present case is that whoever informed the cockfighters also told them that drones were involved. The pit operator, Robert Ray Baughman, and a team of accomplices, set about trying to find anyone connected to our efforts.
“Baughman did in fact find one of my associates, resulting in an assault by Baughman against one of my associates.
“As I am certain you are aware,” Hindi reminded Sheriff Head, “cockfighting is a felony in Oklahoma. The prospect of police aiding these criminals should be absolutely repulsive to anyone with a badge. That a member of our team was also assaulted only makes us more determined that this criminal behavior will not be allowed to simply fade away.
“Working to develop info on other locations”
“I am requesting a thorough investigation into this matter,” Hindi told Head. “If you feel you are ill-equipped to deal with it, or are too close, then a request for assistance from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is in order.
“Whoever chose to partner with the cockfighters, to allow them to go free, and to endanger my team have assured our return. We are actively working to develop more information on other locations.
“Sheriff Head, I hope you are on the right side – the law enforcement side – of this issue,” Hindi finished. “This is your opportunity to show everyone just where you stand. I look forward to your timely response.”
History of ignoring oath of office
What Hindi did not yet know is that Sheriff Tony Head has a history of ignoring his oath of office.
Most blatantly, in direct contradiction of his oath, Head on February 17, 2020 emphatically and unilaterally declared his intent to make Atoka County a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” meaning specifically that Head would not enforce state and federal gun laws, and would not “aid federal, state, or any municipal agencies” in enforcing any gun laws that he deemed “infringements on the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.”
Head asked the Atoka County Board of Commissioners for “their affirmative resolution of unqualified support for this declaration,” but overlooked that neither he nor the Atoka County Board of Commissioners have legal authority to either interpret constitutional law or defy state and federal law.
State law makes Head’s declaration moot
Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt on April 27, 2021 made Head’s declaration of intent to defy state and federal gun laws moot.
Stitt endorsed into Oklahoma state law a declaration passed by both houses of the legislature that all of Oklahoma is a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” within which “any federal, state, county or municipal act, law, executive order, administrative order, court order, rule, policy or regulation ordering the buy-back, confiscation or surrender of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from law-abiding citizens of this state will also be unlawful as an infringement on the right to keep and bear arms.”
“You rock bro!”
Interpreting constitutional law, including the Second Amendment, is constitutionally reserved to the judiciary, the highest arbiter being the Supreme Court of the United States.
The current U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely to entertain any gun-related cases which could find the State of Oklahoma to be in contempt of court, but past rulings have repeatedly affirmed that states may not adopt interpretations of the U.S. Constitution contradicting those of the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, enforcing the law, including state and federal law, is Tony Head’s sworn duty, whether he likes it or not.
Disregarding his own oath of office, Oklahoma District 19 state representative Justin Humphrey posted as the third Facebook comment below Head’s “Second Amendment Sanctuary” declaration, “You rock bro!”
Also part of Tony Head’s sworn duty is enforcing the Oklahoma state law making cockfighting a felony, and assisting federal agents in enforcing the several federal laws making interstate involvement in cockfighting a felony against the people of the United States.
In that light it is noteworthy that Sheriff Tony Head’s Facebook “friends” list includes Rob and Kim Baughman, on whose property the alleged cockfight of June 26, 2022 took place; Montana Dodd, on whose property the alleged cockfight of May 1, 2021 occurred; and Humphrey, author of a state bill to decriminalize cockfighting.
In fairness, Head has 1,200-odd Facebook “friends,” including about one Atoka County resident in 12, and Humphrey is the state representative for parts of Atoka, Bryan, Choctaw, and Pushmataha counties.
But many of the most prominent residents and business owners of Atoka County are not on Head’s “friends” list; it is scarcely all-inclusive.
Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission builds Republican clout
The Humphrey bill to decriminalize cockfighting failed in the 2022 Oklahoma legislative session, but Humphrey told the online newspaper The Frontier that “he plans to introduce similar legislation again in 2023.”
Said Humphrey, “We think we have a really strong chance of getting that bill through next year.”
Buoying Humphrey’s optimism is that 59 of the 61 candidates for the state legislature who were endorsed by the pro-cockfighting Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission, 58 of them Republicans in a solidly Republican state, either won their races in the June 28, 2022 state primary election, or will go into a runoff before the November 2022 election.
There are 101 members of the Oklahoma state house of representatives, 82 of them Republicans, and 48 members of the state senate, 39 of them Republicans.
Dismantling the felony
The Oklahoma ballot initiative prohibiting cockfighting passed in November 2002 with 56% of the vote. In 57 sparsely populated rural counties, however, of 77 counties in all, including Atoka County, the majority voted to keep cockfighting legal.
Though higher courts eventually disagreed, local judges in 27 of the 57 rural counties soon thereafter held the anti-cockfighting initiative to have been unconstitutional.
A previous Oklahoma ban on cockfighting was overturned in 1963.
“Senator Humphrey,” summarized Los Angeles CityWatch blogger Phyllis Daugherty on July 4, 2022, “wants to reduce the offense [of cockfighting] to a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no more than $2,000 and also redefine ‘cockfighting’ to mean, ‘Only when the birds are fitted with artificial spurs, knives or gaffs would it be considered a cockfight.
“Humphrey’s bill would also remove language from the current definition of ‘cockfighting’ that reads, ‘any training fight in which birds are intended or encouraged to attack or fight with one another’ and remove the prohibition on advertising a cockfight.”
Observed The Frontier, “The campaign to decriminalize cockfighting in Oklahoma comes as animal rights groups are pushing federal and state regulators to crack down on birds often sent to fight overseas from the mainland United States. Oklahoma is one of the largest gamefowl exporting states in the U.S., according to a 2020 report by the national animal welfare group Animal Wellness Action.”
While exporting birds to fight is prohibited by federal law, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry in May 2022 contended to Animal Wellness Action that it lacks legal authority to cooperate in stopping the exports.
Who is Justin Humphrey?
Justin Humphrey himself is a five-time winner of the satirical DailyKos.com “Fanatical Republican Extremist of the Day” award for introducing legislation to establish a Bigfoot hunting season, promote use of cryptocurrency “to both facilitate legal medical marijuana businesses and to combat illegal ones,” and most of all, for sponsoring “legislation, HB 1441, that would require a woman to get the father’s permission before seeking an abortion, which neglects that a paternity test can’t confirm who a baby’s father is during a pregnancy without risking a miscarriage or developmental defects to the fetus.
“So really,” DailyKos.com pointed out, “any random guy could stake claim to being the “father” and stop an abortion.”
Humphrey later “went out to talk about banning Critical Race Theory (that no one was teaching anyway) and during debate about it, compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the Ku Klux Klan,” DailyKos.com mentioned.
Oklahoma District 19 demographics
Humphrey also notoriously has led a crusade against “pornography” in the Atoka high school library. Two of the four counties in his district, Choctaw and Pushmataha, are among the ten in Oklahoma with the most adult book stores per capita, with half again more that the U.S. national average.
Other District 19 demographics include that Atoka and Pushmataha are among the ten poorest of the 77 Oklahoma counties; Choctaw and Pushmataha are two of the 10 with the lowest life expectancy and highest percentages of unhealthy adult residents; and Atoka, Pushmataha, and Choctaw counties are among the lowest third in average level of educational attainment, with a cumulative high school graduation rate of less than 40%.
About two-thirds of the adults in District 19, however, identify themselves as “religious” Christian fundamentalists.
Fraternal Order of Police
Humphrey, according to his legislative biography, “currently serves as the chair of the House Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee and serves on the Agricultural & Rural Development & Public Safety Committees, as well as on the Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee for Public Safety. He also is a member of State and Federal Redistricting Committees & Subcommittees.
“Prior to running for the House of Representatives, Humphrey in 2010 was the owner/operator of Last Chance Supervision Services, a private company that contracted drug court supervision and private probation, and offered drug testing for the courts and private companies.
“In addition, Humphrey was the administrator of Atoka/Coal County drug court from 2010 to 2016.”
Humphrey “worked for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for 20 years before retiring,” the biography says, in which capacity Humphrey was “vice president of his local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.”
Did that chapter include Tony Head? Perhaps only their hairdressers know for sure.