By Bruce Harper Karnes Countywide staff
KARNES COUNTY – The local sheriff’s department along with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety (Highway Patrol, Texas Rangers, and CID), Texas Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement Division, Homeland Security agents, Victoria County Sheriff Office, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents executed a search warrant on a ranch located off Highway 887 west of the town of Gillett, near County Road 263.
The investigation leading up to the raid took a few months to compile the needed evidence to obtain the warrant, according to sheriff’s department investigators.
The coordinated raid occurred at approximately 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, with 75 officers involved. Officers entered the property and found a large number of people participating in the fighting of roosters. Investigators found that this was an organized event to include roosters being brought to the location in air-conditioned cages stored in vehicles designed to transport these animals.
When investigators arrived, a large number of people scattered but were apprehended by responding officers with the assistance of dogs, horses and aircraft.
“We caught most everybody, but a small handful might have evaded arrest by running into the wooded area around the ranch,” said Karnes County Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva.
The ranch area used by the promoters covered nine acres, according to sheriff’s department officials.
Those participating in the event were charged an entry fee to enter the property and money was being wagered on each individual fight. Investigators found the organizers of this event to be known gang and cartel members.
Investigators at the scene recovered seven handguns, one assault rifle, $37,020 of United States currency, a quantity of powder cocaine, 22 automobiles, a large quantity of paraphernalia used to fight roosters, to include razors, bands, straps, and performance enhancing drugs given to the birds to enhance their fighting.
According to Sheriff Villanueva, 150 individuals have been detained, 35 will be jailed for evading and gambling.
Investigators with Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement took 32 people in custody on detainers or found they were wanted on other criminal charges. A total of 13 people were charged with evading arrest, a Class A misdemeanor, and fighting roosters, 15 people were charged with felony engaging in organized criminal activity, and the remaining suspected players were issued a class C citation for gambling.
The investigation is still ongoing.