NEWPORT, Tenn. – Law enforcement agents raided an illegal cockfight and arrested 144 people attending what one official said may have been one of the nation's largest such gatherings.
Several SWAT teams, helicopters and dozens of state troopers participated in the raid Saturday on the sprawling Del Rio Cockfight Pit (search). They seized about $40,000 in cash and killed more than 300 roosters.
"Reputedly, this was the largest cockfight in the United States," said District Attorney Al Schmutzer Jr. "It was becoming open and notorious, and you just can't stand back and let something operate like that in the community."
The 144 were each charged with being a spectator to cockfighting, a misdemeanor in Tennessee. If convicted, they face up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a $2,500 fine.
John Goodwin, of the Humane Society of the United States (search), who took part in the raid, said it served notice on those conducting such illegal operations. "I wouldn't want to be a cockfighter in East Tennessee right now," he said.
David Webb, a gamecock owner from Rhea County, said he lost more than 20 chickens valued at $150 each during the raid. "I've been around this stuff all my life. Everything I've ever known is a chicken fight," he said.
Newport, adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains, is 42 miles east of Knoxville.