Cock fighting ring found in Lithia

Posted at 7:38 PM, Feb 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-27 23:46:12-05
Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a cockfighting ring.  An anonymous tip let them to a property off Lithia Pinecrest Road and Lyons Avenue in Lithia, where dozens of birds were found. 

Inside the enclosed property, deputies uncovered a ring set up for cockfighting complete with weights, spurs, a scoreboard and trophies.  Deputies think they busted the operation before the birds went head to head Saturday.

"It was well set up.  It looked like it was going to be a more in-depth thing, but we got there early," said Sgt. Harrison Bashner with the Hillsborough Co. Sheriff's Office.

Several vehicles were parked around the building and everyone in the area sped off or ran away on foot just as deputies arrived.  The vehicles left behind were later towed.

"Animal services got the tip.  They notified us.  When we got here, neighbors notified us that they'd seen people in the woods.  So we had units out here and also had the helicopter search the woods to see if there were any threats.  At this time, it's clear," said Sgt. Bashner.

Deputies found dozens of birds on the property.  Some were alive and others were dead.  As they were trying to wrangle the birds, one of them killed two others.  It'll be up to animal services to determine what happens to the surviving birds next. 
Some neighbors are stunned this kind of illegal activity was happening nearby. 

"I didn't really expect that because it seems like a really good neighborhood and when I found out I thought that was crazy," said neighbor Ricardo Isidro.

Other neighbors aren't as surprised.  One woman, who didn't want to go on camera, says she's seen fancy cars driving down the road at all hours for years, and suspected drug activity or something else illegal was going on.  Now she and other neighbors are worried for their safety, since no arrests in the cockfighting case have been made yet.

Deputies say this will be an ongoing investigation for quite some time.  If you have any information about who may be involved, contact the Hillsborough Co. Sheriff's Office.  You can always remain anonymous.