Alleged host of cockfight previously characterized by law enforcement as a “career criminal”
BUNA, Texas––“On March 12, 2023,” disclosed Showing Animals Respect & Kindness in a video posted to Facebook ten days later, “a SHARK drone located an active cockfight in Buna, Texas, in Jasper County.
“The cockfight pit,” Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi narrated, “is owned by Chris Stimits, an individual characterized by law enforcement as a ‘dangerous fugitive,’ and a ‘career criminal,’ including driving while intoxicated on multiple occasions, violation of bond and protective order, aggravated assault, arson, unlawful restraint, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.”
At least five of those alleged offenses brought convictions.
Sheriff “long aware” of alleged Stimits cockpit
Jasper County sheriff Mitchell Newman, in office since 2009 and next up for re-election in 2024, “has long been aware of Stimits’ cockfighting pit,” Hindi continued, citing local sources.
“If that’s true, Jasper County has a decision to make,” Hindi challenged. “Either put a stop to the cockfighting immediately and permanently, or be exposed for protecting it.
“Stimits is expected to hold his illegal cockfights roughly every couple of weeks,” Hindi said. “If we don’t know about them ahead of time, we’ll know afterward. The point is, we’ll know.”
SHARK gave everyone involved long advance notice
That Christopher Glenn Stimits, 37, has long been involved in cockfighting is not exactly a secret. His Facebook pages, one inactive since 2014 but still accessible, and several other pages currently, extensively detail his interest in gamefowl breeding for cockfights.
Neither did Showing Animals Respect & Kindness make a secret of keeping Stimits’ alleged cockpit under drone surveillance.
Emailed SHARK to supporters on May 15, 2022, with an aerial photograph of the property showing numerous rooster hutches, “Having received information about cockfight locations in various parts of Texas, we’ve made our first trip, finding two properties that were quiet at the point we were there. We will continue to monitor these locations and others as we amass more information.”
Why did the sheriff not obtain a search warrant?
On March 12, 2023, after verifying the arrival of numerous vehicles at the suspected Stivits cockpit, many of them apparently bringing roosters, members of the SHARK team repeatedly called Sheriff Mitchel Newman.
Hindi himself visited both the sheriff’s office in Jasper, the Jasper County seat, 36 miles north, and a local branch office in Buna, he told ANIMALS 24-7.
Sheriff’s office personnel alleged to Hindi, he said, that they could not set foot on the property without a search warrant. So why, shown probable cause, did they not obtain a search warrant?
Alleged host of cockfight is well-known to police
The Stimits family is prominent in Buna, population circa 1,900, owning several local business.
But Christopher Glenn Stimits is well-known to local law enforcement.
Reported Steve Stewart for KJAS radio in Jasper and KFAH in Pineland, on February 3, 2015, “The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department says that they, along with Jasper County deputies and the U.S. Marshal’s Service converged on a house in the Buna area on Tuesday morning and arrested a man who was described as a ‘career criminal,’ and was wanted for several felony crimes in Jefferson County, but had managed to elude capture for some time.
“According to deputy Rod Carroll,” Stewart continued, “Christopher Glenn Stimits was wanted for aggravated assault, motion to revoke parole for assault, arson, failure to appear [in court, resulting in bond forfeiture and a protective order being issued, unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, and a motion to revoke parole,” based on “unlawful restraint.”
Caught with aid of helicopter
“According to Carroll,” Stewart added, “Jasper County deputies had previously attempted to apprehend Stimits, but the layout of his property allowed him to see deputies coming and he was able to flee into the woods each time.
“However, Carroll said three Jasper County deputies approached his house from the same woods where he would flee each time, while other deputies and U.S. marshals went to the front door and a Jefferson County helicopter flew overhead. Carroll said when Stimits tried to flee into the woods, he was captured there by the three Jasper County deputies.
“Carroll said additional charges of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon were added to his list of charges that he is currently being held on.”
Distracted by search for woman missing since 2021?
All of this suggests Sheriff Mitchel Newman should have been significantly interested that Stimits, in allegedly hosting a cockfight, partially documented by SHARK drone video, as well as other information, was again allegedly committing a felony, punishable by up to two years in the Texas state penitentiary, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
But Sheriff Mitchel Newman may have been distracted, reporting by Steve Stewart and other media serving the area indicates, by recent developments in the ongoing search for Cristi Ruso, a local woman who was 32 years old when she disappeared in October 2021, hours after being released from jail.
No known links except proximity
Ruso was last seen at the Garden Inn & Suites Motel on Highway 96, about seven miles southwest of the alleged Stimits cockpit. Her clothing was reportedly found two months later alongside County Road 777, about two and a half miles south of the alleged Stimits cockpit.
Sheriff Mitchel Newman and deputies searched a house nearby on February 23, 2023, drained a pond without finding human remains, and arrested Colby Hunter Tatom, 28, on what Newman told media were unrelated charges of driving with an invalid license, violation of the Texas law requiring use of a child safety seat, possession of a controlled substance, and theft of property.
There is no connection known to either Showing Animals Respect & Kindness or ANIMALS 24-7 between the Ruso and Tatom cases and Stimits’ alleged cockfighting activities, other than geographical proximity.
Small community with nasty history
Buna, Texas, previously came to the notice of ANIMALS 24-7, and Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, when a Buna bareback performer named Lee Cherry was seriously injured at the 2009 edition of the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo, in an incident documented by SHARK video.
Buna was also the scene of three disfiguring pit bull attacks in 2013 and one in 2017.
Jasper, the Jasper County seat, was on June 10, 1998 the scene of the random lynching of James Byrd Jr., 49, an African-American hitchhiker, who was severely beaten with a baseball bat, his face spray-painted, urinated and defecated on, then chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to death.
White supremacists Lawrence Russell Brewer, 31 at the time of the murder, and John William King, then 23, were executed on September 21, 2011 and April 24, 2019, respectively.
Shawn Allen Berry, 24, who testified against Brewer and King, is serving a life sentence in prison.
Annoula Wylderich says
Corrupt officials should be reported to the FBI’s Public Corruption tip line: tips.fbi.gov
Steve Hindi says
SHARK has for years reached out to the FBI and other federal agencies regarding police and other corruption. Those efforts were ongoing even before there actually was a SHARK organization, going all the way back to the Hegins pigeon shoot more than 30 years ago.
The FBI and other federal crimefighting organizations suffer from a number of maladies. Inadequate resources is one issue, but then there is the very real issue that some of these agencies believe animal groups are part of the problem. This is not the case so much in cockfighting, but that general perception does exist, and it hurts our efforts.
We have, and will continue to reach out to the feds to put more focus on cockfighting, including the outrageous practice of the US Postal Service knowingly allowing fighting birds to be shipped throughout and outside the US, which is absolutely illegal.
Laws are only as good as law enforcement, and when it comes to animals, enforcement sucks pretty much throughout the country.
Jamaka Petzak says
Sounds like the kind of neighborhood you’d want to raise your kids in.
Sharing with gratitude…and a lot more.
Wayne Farr says
Why is SHARK working with Wayne Pacelle now? Selling out? https://sharkonline.org/index.php/past-shark-updates/1701-the-facts-about-hsus-and-the-vermont-pro-puppy-mill-bill?highlight=WyJ3YXluZSIsInBhY2VsbGUiLCJ3YXluZSBwYWNlbGxlIl0=
Merritt Clifton says
Both SHARK founder Steve Hindi and Animal Wellness Action president Wayne Pacelle have worked in opposition to cockfighting for many years. Pacelle is now with a different organization from the one he was with in 2017, answering to a different constituency & board of directors, & might accordingly see more value in working with grassroots organizations like SHARK than he did as head of the biggest organization in animal advocacy.