Monday, Dec. 16, 2019
News 12 at 5 and 6 o’clock
The Lincoln County farm where a cockfighting bust took place was home to over 500 birds, law enforcement officials said. (Source: WRDW)
LINCOLN COUNTY, GA (WRDW/WAGT) — After a weekend cockfighting ring bust netted 30 arrests, Lincoln County officials now say they could be seeking at least 250 others.
Maj. Jim Wallen with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office says the sheriff’s office originally believed they were looking for about 30 to 50 people in connection with the ring, but now that number has ballooned much higher.
So far, Wallen says, about 30 people have been arrested with three people turning themselves in. About 12 to 15 suspects have been booked through the system so far.
Those arrested have been charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals and felony commercial gambling, Wallen said.
But what of the birds themselves? Wallen says the living birds will not be euthanized and are back on the farm where the bust took place.
Deputies have charged the farm’s owner, Lanier Hightower, but he was sent back to the farm to aid in taking care of the birds after bonding out of jail.
Wallen said Saturday that 500 birds were present on the farm at the time of the cockfighting.
People like resident Peyton Norman say the bust was not something you see everyday in the area.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Norman said. “Not in Lincolnton. I mean, the only chickens we have is on a plate.”
So when Norman and his brother were called to tow away cars from a cockfighting ring, he says he was stunned.
“We hauled cars from about 4 p.m. Saturday to about 4 a.m. Sunday morning,” Norman said.
The reaction was the same from deputies.
“I knew it was more of a money thing,” Wallen said. “I did not have any idea that it would be to the magnitude that it is.”
Wallen says 46 people were entered into the fight. He says each had to to pay a $600 buy-in and bring at least five chickens. Police believe the person carrying the $27,600 is still on the run.
It wasn’t just fighting, either. Wallen says they found animal steroids at the scene and people were selling chickens and equipment, too.
“They had a concession stand,” Wallen said. “You know, they had everything. It was like going to the ball park. Everything was there.”
Police say they anticipate it will take at least a week to book everyone and continue the investigation, but they also say the district attorney’s office is going to contact the U.S. attorney general’s office to let them know about the operation.
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