Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lemitar Cockfighting Event Interrupted

By John Larson

SOCORRO – Seven years after the last legally recognized cockfighting arena in Socorro County was destroyed by fire, a County Sheriff’s deputy, with assistance from a State Police officer, stopped a clandestine cockfighting event in Lemitar Sunday, May 30.
“I saw people running out of the building in all directions. Flying out like a bunch of birds,” Deputy Joseph Tafoya said.
Tafoya and State Police Officer Greg Valentino were the only law enforcement officers available at the time to answer the call shortly after noon from a woman who reported that she witnessed dead roosters in the front yard of a residence on Elder Lane in Lemitar.
“It was an anonymous call into dispatch,” Tafoya said. “She said there were several vehicles, maybe 12 to 15, at the residence, and that there appeared to be a cockfight in progress. You can’t miss it.”

Tafoya said the first offense for cockfighting is a petty misdemeanor, which carries a fine of between $25 and $100. Unlike dog fighting, spectators are not charged.
“Officer Valentino and I arrived at the property - which included a trailer, a work shed, a bigger house and a large garage - and we split up, he went one way and I went around the other way,” he said. “I heard Greg saying ‘don’t move, stay right there,’ and came around the corner. That’s when the people came running out in all directions, out toward the ditch banks. Four people stayed put; three spectators and the property owner.”
He said he said he noticed in the backyard one rooster dead, two others injured and other roosters running around loose on the property.
“Both the injured birds had the metal spurs attached, along with the boot,” Tafoya said.
The property owner told Tafoya that he had just arrived prior to the officers’ arrival, and said “he was called by another friend who said friends of his were in town and looking for a place to fight the roosters.
“The owner said he didn’t want that to happen on his property, but it had already started. That’s when we showed up,” Tafoya said. “The three spectators said they didn’t know who the people were, other than [the other people] were the owners of the roosters and were from Belen.”
Tafoya said no one was charged at the May 30 incident in Lemitar, but the surviving roosters have been taken in by a woman in Polvadera.
“The roosters have been classified as abandoned property,” he said. “The county may have to advertise them as such, and we’ll see if the rightful owners of the roosters come to claim their property.”
Which is doubtful.

Since March, 2007, cockfighting has been banned in New Mexico, although it is not a crime to own, breed and sell fighting roosters.
When Gov. Bill Richardson signed the law outlawing cockfighting, it had been a thriving business in Luis Lopez.
At least up until May, 2003, when the Gentlemen’s Arena Game Club, operated by Louisa Lopez and Richard Lopez Sr. on Farm-Market road was burned to the ground by an arsonist. The perpetrator was never discovered.
That same year the New Mexico legislature was to decide on a bill banning cockfighting and imposing an 18 month prison sentence on those poultry fanciers convicted of the crime and sentiments on both sides of the issue ran high.
After the fire the Lopezes constructed a new building on the site, and opened it as a dance hall.
In earlier times legal cockfighting arenas could be found in Magdalena, San Antonio, and Lemitar, as well as Luis Lopez.
A major cockfighting operation in Chaparral was broken up in 2009, resulting the recovery of about 1,000 fighting roosters.

Pictures: (top) The evidence picked up by the authorities in Lemitar. (bottom) In May of 2003, the Gentlemen’s Arena Game Club, operated by Louisa and Richard Lopez Sr., was destroyed by fire and the arsonist was never caught.

Mountain Mail file photo

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