MONTGOMERY, Ala.—U.S. Attorney George Beck thinks there are two types of people that should be in hell: those who are cruel to children and those who are cruel to animals.
On Monday, Beck was joined by members of the Auburn Police Division, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other local law enforcement agencies at his Montgomery office to announce that 12 people had been arrested since Friday in connection to one of the biggest dog fighting raids in history, where 367 pit bulls were rescued by officers, as well as by members of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States. In addition, a number of guns, illegal drugs, canine drugs and $500,000 were confiscated during the raids.
“It should serve as some type of notice or warning to those who want to engage in this type of activity,” Beck said during the press conference.
Beck said the efforts of all the parties involved led to 13 indictments and search warrants being made across Alabama and other states such as Mississippi, Georgia and Texas. Beck said 12 arrests have been made and that there is another being sought. Each individual was charged with conspiring to promote or sponsor dog fighting, in addition arranging for dogs to be at fights and conducting an illegal gambling business between 2009 and 2013. According to Beck, some of the defendants were betting between $5,000 and $200,000 on dog fights. An arraignment hearing has been set Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in Montgomery for the accused.
APD Chief Paul Register said cases like these are part of why he and others first got into law enforcement and that it was not until the raid that he fully understood the wide-reaching effects of dog fighting.
“The inhumane treatment that we’ve all seen during this case we will not forget,” Register said. “The Auburn Police Division was happy to be a part of this investigation.”
Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations, said the significance of this case was not just on the local level, but on the national level, too.
“This will have significant implications throughout the country,” Schindler said. “Hopefully, this will send a strong message to other individuals engaged in this that this will not be tolerated.”
Tim Rickey, vice president of field investigations and response for the ASPCA, said the investigation was three years in the making and expressed his gratitude for those involved for their diligence in seeing it all the way through to justice.
“This was an extremely long investigation, but as you hear the details of the case in the days and weeks to come, I think you will understand why it was so important that this investigation continue to be followed,” Rickey said.
Rickey detailed that many of these animals were living in “horrendous” conditions, being chained up and malnourished in the middle of fields. Now, the animals are being kept in undisclosed locations and receiving treatment.
“Today, these dogs are comfortable in the shelters, being taken care of by ASPCA,” Rickey said. “They’re getting the food and water and medical care that they needed, and they’re finally getting a loving hand from responders who cared for these dogs.”
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said he was disgusted with what he saw as law enforcement went through the southern and western parts of the county, as well as south of Opelika to investigate these sites.
“It’s something I know the people in our community…and any community do: people do not tolerate people that abuse animals,” Jones said. “That’s just something we all feel very strongly about and we’re certainly going to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.”
Coffee County Sheriff David Sutton said he has one message for those still involved in dog fighting.
“If you’re going to do the crime, we’re going to come see you,” Sutton said. “We’re going to get you sooner or later.”
The following people were arrested during the raids:
» Donnie Anderson, 48, of Auburn
» Demontt Allen, 37, of Houston
» William Antone Edwards, 42, of Brantley
» William Oneil Edwards, 39, of Elba
» Robin Stinson, 40, of Elba
» Michael Martin, 54, of Auburn
» Lawrence Watford, 35, of Adel, Ga.
» Ricky Van Le, 24, of Biloxi, Miss.
» David Sellers, 52, of Opelika.
» Sandy Brown, 47, of Brownsville.
» Carlton Tippens, age unknown, of Georgia
» Irkis Forest, age unknown, of Theodore.