From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2012:
Cockfighting, murder, & a lawsuit over use of a wheeled tank to make a bust
McALLEN, Texas; ALEOSAN, North Cotabato, Philippines–Cockfighting preceded mass murder twice during the second week of April 2012. The killers in each case escaped, and if identified, were not named to media by survivors and law enforcement.
Ramiro Garcia, 49, his brother Juan Santos Garcia, 53, and Arturo Buentello Garza, 42, were shot dead and eight people were wounded on April 20, 2012 by two to four gunmen who allegedly fired “indiscriminately” into the crowd at a cockfight 20 miles northeast of McAllen, Texas, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino told media. “Trevino said Garza was likely a bystander, but the Garcias were known to authorities for previous criminal activity, including drug possession,” reported Christopher Sherman of Associated Press. Arraigned for promoting cockfighting were land owners Heriberto Leandro, 51, his wife Leticia Leandro, 52, and Humberto Blanco, 37, the alleged organizer.
The McAllen shootings came six days after someone lobbed a hand grenade into a cockpit surrounded by more than 100 spectators in Barangay Lawili, near Aleosan, North Cotabato, the Philippines. Three villagers were killed; 33 were wounded. North Cotabato senior police superintendent Cornelio Salinas told John Unson of the Philippine Star that the grenade attack “could have something to do with violent clan wars” in nearby Barangay Tonganon. “Text messages have also been circulating purporting that the bombing could have been perpetrated by jihadists preaching against gambling, drinking liquor, prostitution, and usury,” wrote Unson.
The mass murders followed the April 7, 2012 death of Miguel Bonilla Rojas, 24, from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound at a cockpit in Royal City, Washing-ton, and the unsolved February 26, 2012 fatal shooting of Luis Rodriguez, 21, at a cockfight near Athens, Texas.
Murder suspect and previously convicted cockfighter Pedro Reyes-Lopez, 43, was among 53 people who were apprehended in a series of early March 2012 raids on cockfights in and around Phoenix, Arizona. Also allegedly involved in drug trafficking, Reyes-Lopez was charged with killing Jose Diego Gutierrez-Reyes in September 2010. Gutierrez-Reyes had reportedly fathered two children with Reyes-Lopez’s former wife.
The raids that caught Reyes-Lopez came on the Sunday preceding and the Saturday following the March 7, 2012 filing of a lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, actor Steven Seagal, and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for allegedly “arresting and prosecuting individuals without probable cause solely for the selfish and improper purposes of achieving personal and political gain through publicity.”
Brought by previously convicted cockfighting participant Jesus Llovera, 43, the lawsuit resulted from a March 2011 dawn raid in which sheriff’s deputies used a wheeled tank to breach a wall in front of Llovera’s home in Laveen, a Phoenix suburb. Llovera says a sheriff’s deputy also shot his dog, a charge that Arpaio’s office has denied.
“Deputies suspected that Llovera had roosters and chickens on his property, a violation of his probation,” wrote Richard Ruelas and J.J. Hensley of the Arizona Republic. “They also suspected he was raising them to fight. But the Sheriff’s Office was also participating in the creation of a cable reality show, Steven Seagal: Lawman, that followed Seagal’s exploits as a deputized officer. Four cameras from the production company filmed the warrant execution and arrest. Arpaio’s office had alerted the media. Reporters and television cameras lined the street. The Sheriff’s Office insists in court documents that the use of a tank, a bomb robot and 40 deputies was part of its normal course of duties,” Ruelas and Hensley reported.
“After the raid, Llovera was criminally charged with raising animals for cockfighting and possession of dangerous drugs used on the animals,” Ruelas and Hensley continued. “The episode of Steven Seagal: Lawman was to premiere on the A&E Network on January 4, but the season was pulled from the schedule and the channel’s website.”
Llovera told Ruelas and Hensley that what the sheriff’s department called a training ring for cockfighting is actually where he practices Santeria, a Caribbean religion featuring animal sacrifice.
“Phoenix police went to Llovera’s home in February 2011,” Ruelas and Hensley recounted, “to investigate a man’s claim that Llovera had kidnapped him and held him hostage for four days. Llovera told his own story of being kidnapped and having his pinky chopped off in the desert. Confronted with differing stories, police didn’t pursue the kidnapping case. But they did send the information about the roosters on Llovera’s property to the Sheriff’s Office.”
Seagal received a PETA humanitarian award in 1999. Arpaio was honored between 2000 and 2008 by the Humane Society of the U.S., In Defense of Animals, and United Animal Nations.
Since 2008 Arpaio has lost multiple of court rulings that he violated the rights of jail inmates, settled out of court a case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, had the U.S. Department of Home-land Security revoke the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office authority to identify and detain alleged illegal immigrants, and was judicially found to have misused his office to target political opponents. The Maricopa County Office of Management and Budget alleged in April 2011 that Arpaio’s office misused nearly $100 million in public funds. The Campaign to Re-Elect Joe Arpaio 2012 has been fined for election law violations.
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