SOUTH KITSAP — Two men, ages 66 and 57, were arrested and booked into Kitsap County Jail June 2 after agents from the Washington State Gambling Commission and other law enforcement agencies raided a rural residential property in South Kitsap where an alleged illegal cockfight was underway.
With the help of law enforcement, the agents served a search warrant at the property, where they collected evidence of animal fighting that included breeding records, gaffs — metal spurs — and medical kids. The agents seized more than $35,000 in cash believed to be wagers and/or winnings from the operation, according to the gambling commission. In addition, 300 roosters were seized at the property.
Assisting in the bust and property search were officials from the Washington State Patrol, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Postal Inspector, Homeland Security Investigations, Kitsap County Humane Society, and King County, Seattle and Kirkland animal control offices.
The two men were booked on charges of professional gambling, animal fighting, ownership in a gambling device and leading organized crime. A third male was arrested and booked into jail for failing to provide his name to police.
Court records identified the 66-year-old man as Joe Leon Guerrero Salas. Also charged and in jail is Kenneth Castro San Nicolas, 55. They were arraigned in Kitsap County Superior Court on June 4, where they were to be charged with felony first-degree animal cruelty. The men are each being detained under $400,000 bail. Their residences weren’t indicated in court records.
The gambling commission said in all, 27 people were detained at the residence just off Bethel Burley Road in South Kitsap.
“Cockfighting is a brutal blood sport that is almost always operated solely for the purpose of conducting illegal gambling,” Dave Trujillo, the gambling commission’s director, said.
“With assistance from our law enforcement partners, we were able to take the ringleaders into custody and save these birds from a cruel and violent death.”
The agency reported the property had been under surveillance after receiving complaints of suspected illegal cockfighting being conducted there. The investigation found that the property owner had been allegedly hosting fights on the weekends in which participants would bring their own birds to fight.
The gambling commission said in a news release that birds engaged in cockfighting are routinely given steroids and other drugs to induce violent behavior, and have sharp metal spurs and knives attached to their legs.
The roosters, which are bred for cockfighting, are put in a small ring where they fight to the death. In the course of a typical cockfight event, multiple fights are staged and wagers of between $100 to $2,000 are placed on each fight. The property owner charges an entry fee, plus an additional fee to dispose of the dead rooster. The referee also takes a cut from the fight, picking up a 10-percent commission on the winnings.
Even though the roosters confiscated at the property have been freed from the fighting arena, gambling commission officials said they can’t be rehabilitated due to their aggressive behavior and the effects of the drugs they have been given. After the seizure, the roosters were humanely euthanized on site by certified animal control staff members, officials said. Hens and chicks found on the property will be rehoused, animal control officials added.
Heather Songer, a spokeswoman for the state gambling commission, said an investigation of the illegal cockfighting operation is ongoing.
This story was first published to the Kitsap Daily News.