Sixty-four pit bulls were confiscated in a massive sting operation, with simultaneous raids in Rock Island and Davenport, Illinois. According to Rock Island Police, 11 federal search warrants were served in both cities, beginning at 6 a.m. on April 14, in an ongoing inquisition.
Besides the pit bulls, many of whom were adults covered in scars, as well as puppies, authorities confiscated narcotics and a firearm.
Federal prosecutors are now seeking custody of the dogs, as the dogs were used as gambling tools and can be seized because of it.
Feds assert that in the Rock Island and Davenport homes, training, fighting, gambling on fighting, and killing of dogs occurred, the Quad City Times reported.
— ASPCA (@ASPCA) April 19, 2016
In a 15-page civil forfeiture complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court, Rock Island, prosecutors said that the dogs were used as gambling tools, and were transported from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Mississippi.
They also say several of those listed participated in dog fights and gambling on them in Iowa, Alabama, and Mississippi.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which assisted police in seizing the dogs, said there were definite signs of a fighting ring.
“After search warrants were served Thursday morning by the FBI, responders discovered dogs tethered on heavy chains and training devices consistent with dog fighting.”
The ASPCA is housing the pit bulls in a temporary shelter in an undisclosed location, KWQC said. The dogs will receive “medical attention and behavioral enrichment” until a court makes a decision about their custody.
Tim Rickey, the vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, said that dog fighting is more common than people think.
“… The level of brutality we continue to see in organized dog fighting rings is profoundly troubling. We’re relieved these animals have finally been removed from this cycle of violence. Many people will be surprised to learn that dog fighting is happening in their community. It’s an underground activity that goes mostly unnoticed by the public, but it happens all across the country.”
Two people were arrested on felony drug charges as part of the raid, although they have not yet been implicated in dog fighting.
Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee declined to give further details, according to Quad City Times.
“I’m not saying they are affiliated with the dog fighting cases. Out of that investigation, two individuals were arrested for drugs.”
WQUAD8 reported that 41-year-old Ryan Hickman is charged with possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine. Willie Jackson, 34, is charged with possession with intent to deliver marijuana.
Both appeared in Rock Island County Circuit Court at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 15. Hickman’s bond was set at $75,000. Jackson’s bond was set at $10,000.
Court records showed that Hickman was arrested on September 23, 2010, in Rock Island on charges of promoting dog fighting and aggravated cruelty to animals, both Class 4 felonies. He pleaded guilty to the dog-fighting charge and was given a two-year probation sentence.
Other individuals involved in the ring besides Hickman and Jackson include the following list.
- Quentin Clemons
- Algerron Goldsmith Sr.
- Simmeon Hall
- Marcus Holmes
- Sherrick Houston
- Jaquan Jones
- Stantrel Knight
- Denzell Lee
- Andre Lidell
- Timon Mayfield
- Demarlo McCoy
- Terril McDuffy
- Derrick Nephew
- Torrie Roberts
- Darrick Rodgers
KWQC stated that after losing two fights, two different dogs were hung.
A confidential source said Roberts conducted dog fights in his basement, where he charged $5 per person as an entry fee.
QC Times said that Clemons’ dog lost in a fight at Roberts’ home.
“He then killed the dog by hanging it in front of those present, the confidential source said.
“In a fight at McCoy’s residence, Knight hung his dog by the neck until it died after it lost a fight.”
The dog fighting bust involved a year’s worth of investigation, with the cooperation of the following agencies.
- Rock Island Police Department
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- United State’s Attorney’s Office
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- Illinois State Police
- Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s Office
- Rock Island County Sheriff’s Department
- Moline Police Department
- East Moline Police Department
- Quad City Metropolitan Enforcement Group
- Davenport Police Department
- Scott County Sheriff’s Department
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
— ASPCA (@ASPCA) April 16, 2016
The timing of the arrests coincides with a new ruling by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. On April 15, they elevated the sentencing range for animal fighting from 6-12 months to 21-27 months jail.
According to ASPCA.org, the Commission also created a recommended sentencing range of 6-12 months for the new federal crime of bringing a child to an animal fight.
“Lastly, the revised guidelines explicitly state that causing harm to a large number of animals and performing acts of extraordinary cruelty to animals are grounds for imposing longer sentences.”
[Image via Tiverylucky/Shutterstock]