Flies drone into Misssissipi cockpit on the way home
TUPELO, Mississippi; BUG TUSSLE, Alabama; PENSACOLA, Florida––Monday mornings at ANIMALS 24-7 tend to be a bit like show-and-tell in kindergarten. Animal advocates from around the world check in by email, Facebook messaging, text messaging, and sometimes even by telephone to let us know what they have been doing that they think warrants coverage:
- “We started an online petition.”
- “We held a vegan potluck.”
- “We held a protest outside a store that was closed Saturday and Sunday.”
- “We recycled a 20-year-old appeal not attached to any current campaign.”
- “We rehomed three pit bulls Friday night and only had to take two of them back before sundown Sunday.”
Topping the show-and-tell with photos
Then Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi calls.
“We monitored cockfights in Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida,” Hindi began on Monday, April 24, 2023. “We droned four of them.
“Our people only counted cars at the cockfight in Kentucky this time,” Hindi said, “but we got video of the cockfighters carrying their gamecocks into D.L. Parker’s pit, near Baldwin, in Lee County, Mississippi, good enough to recognize faces, and flew the drone right into Buddy Baughman’s pit in Shannon, Mississippi, also in Lee County, when nobody was looking.
“Then we drove on down to Bug Tussle, Alabama. Have you ever heard of Bug Tussle? Well, nobody else has, but the cockfighters sure know the place, because about a hundred of them were there with their birds.
“Finally,” Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7, “we paid a little visit to Roy Jones Jr.’s cockpit near Pensacola. You remember Roy Jones Jr.? He used to be the heavyweight boxing champion. Now he fights birds.”
That’s why Showing Animals Respect & Kindness gets more coverage from ANIMALS 24-7 than anyone else. Hindi always has a story, backed up with visuals, and we can usually hear the bad guys gnashing their teeth––metaphorically, anyhow––via social media from two or three thousand miles away.
Going over Sheriff Johnson’s head
Even as Showing Animals Respect & Kindness picks a fight with Roy Jones Jr., nominally a citizen of both the U.S. and Russia, SHARK remains focused on trying to get law enforcement to fulfill their sworn duties in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, three states where law-breaking by cockfighters could scarcely be more obvious.
After holding a Zoom media conference with Animal Wellness Action on April 19, 2023 to expose the persistent failure of Kentucky sheriffs and state troopers over the past several years to shut down cockfights (see Murder at cockfights isn’t just a Hawaiian thing, animal groups tell Kentucky), SHARK posted to Facebook the following day, “We have now started the process of going above [Lee County, Mississippi sheriff Jim Johnson’s] head by bringing [his repeated failures to respond to cockfights] to the attention of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Public Health.
“From the beginning of our efforts in Mississippi,” SHARK said, “we have been making a record of the lawlessness by the criminal cockfighters and their lawless lackey, Sheriff Johnson.
“We will get to the bottom of this corruption,” SHARK vowed, “and we will not stop until law enforcement does their job, enforces the laws and ends these cockfights!”
Wrote Hindi to Mississippi Bureau of Investigation media contact Bailey Martin about five hours earlier, also on April 20, 2023, “There are currently three active illegal cockfight pits in Lee County. They are listed below.”
Listed specifically were the Tom Williams pit in Guntown, the D.L. Parker pit near Baldwin, and the Buddy Baughman pit near Shannon, the one Hindi flew a drone into to document the facilities.
“Determined refusal to take action has us convinced”
“Since the beginning of the year,” Hindi told Martin, “my organization has exposed active cockfights at least eight times among these three pits. Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson has refused to do anything about these cruel, illegal operations. We have provided schedules printed by the cockfighters, and made calls to alert the sheriff. Sometimes we have given the sheriff a few days’ notice.
“I have signed complaints,” Hindi averred, “and submitted tips on the sheriff’s online form. Local informants have told us that the sheriff is involved in these illegal operations. While we were initially resistant to these accusations, the sheriff’s determined refusal to take action now has us convinced.”
Bug Tussle busts
There is somewhat more history of law enforcement busting cockfights in Bug Tussle, Alabama, albeit rarely.
Reported Evan Belanger for the Cullman Times, back on April 11, 2007, sixteen years ago, “Spectators and operators at an illegal cockfighting operation in the Bug Tussle community were surprised Saturday, when a group of eight sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement agents arrived on the scene at about 9:45 a.m.
“In what Sheriff Tyler Roden described as a “raid,” they shut down the operation, seizing more than $13,000 cash and a computer used for registering participants.
“Hidden well behind a residence, off County Road 18,” Belanger reported, “the barn housed stadium seating for about 150 people. It also boasted a concession stand and a large cockpit with caged sides.
“Roden said spurs and dead roosters were also found on the scene.”
Former Sheriff Tyler Roden busted four cockfights, then was voted out of office
Sheriff Roden, according to Belanger, “made clear that cockfighting at that location was going to stop.
Said Roden, “I let them know the Internal Revenue Service would be very interested in how much of their earnings they are not paying taxes on.”
Offered Showing Animals Respect & Kindness team member Mike Kobliska after SHARK droned the Bug Tussle pit on April 20, 2023, “This report sure sounds like the place today. The pit [we droned] today is just off of Highway 18, way in back of a residence like the reporter described.”
Tyler Roden, elected sheriff in 1994 and voted out of office in 2010, reportedly raided cockfights at the same location in 1999, 2002, and 2009, seizing $18,000 in cash in the 2009 raid.
The cockpit operator was identified as Dewey Lee Johnson, 65 in 2009.
Current Cullman County sheriff Matt Gentry’s deputies responded to the SHARK tip about the Bug Tussle cockfight in progress, but slowly enough to allow the participants to leave in mid-event, with no one arrested, Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7.
Roy Jones Jr.
Last on Hindi’s weekend calendar was his first visit to Roy Jones Jr.’s cockpit.
Neither Roy Jones Jr., 54, with a professional boxing record of 66 wins, 47 by knockout, against just 10 defeats, nor his father, Big Roy Jones, also a former boxer, have ever made a secret of their involvement in cockfighting.
Says Wikipedia, “Jones Jr. is said to have integrated cockfighting into his boxing style, often using exaggerated feints to catch his opponents off-balance.”
Sports Illustrated writer Gary Smith in 1995 lauded Roy Jones Jr. at the peak of his career as “One tough bird. Roy Jones Jr. was raised under the rules of cockfighting: win or die,” Smith said.
Unafraid of sharks
Smith, along with cockfighting anecdotes, included mention that, “Once when the two Roys were fishing, wading in surf up to Little Roy’s chest, Big Roy shouted, ‘Sharks! Two of ’em!’ and the boy dropped his rod and went thrashing for land,” only to be sent back into the water by Big Roy to retrieve the rod.”
So maybe Roy Jones Jr. is not afraid of SHARK.
On the other hand, two more Kentucky cockfighters exposed by SHARK in 2021, busted by the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, were sentenced on April 11, 2023 to serve a year in federal prison.
Jerrard McVey, 48, and Linda McVey, 42, both of Carlisle, Kentucky, copped pleas to the charges in December and November 2022, respectively.
California cockfighter gets 18 months
Then on April 17, 2023, Mexican cockfighter Horacio Ortega-Martinez, 36, recently residing in Bakersfield, California, drew 18 months in a federal penitentiary, having been found in possession of 250 gamefowl and gaffs in April 2022.
A colleague, Jorge Calderon-Campos, 42, was “charged with various drug trafficking offenses and animal fighting venture crimes in two separate indictments,” but has yet to go to trial, announced the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern District of California.
In short, Roy Jones Jr. may find one flying SHARK a lot scarier than two sharks 45 years ago who stayed in the water.