Cockfighting operation raided

Published 6:05 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Chilton County Sheriff’s Department and the state Fire Marshall’s Office on Saturday raided an alleged cockfighting operation off County Road 55.

Sheriff Kevin Davis said his department received numerous tips about the operation and began building a case for a search warrant, which was signed by U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller.

Numerous law enforcement officers visited the residence, near the intersection of 55 and County Road 607, about 9 a.m. on Saturday.

Though there were no fights in progress at the time, Davis said officers confiscated telltale evidence, including spurs that are attached to the roosters’ legs during fights.

“They weren’t fighting chickens, but they were getting ready to fight chickens,” Davis said.

Ninety-six people were at the premises, Davis said, with about 90 percent coming from outside Chilton County.

The property owner, Ruben Ray Smitherman, was arrested and charged with cockfighting (a violation that carries a $50 fine) and promoting gambling.

Smitherman has since posted a $1,250 bond.

The fire marshal’s office is involved in the case because of fire code violations associated with a wooden structure that housed the alleged cockpit at the residence.

“It meets no standards,” state Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said. “If a fire were to break out under those conditions, we’d have massive loss of life.”

Paulk said an investigation of the structure was conducted Saturday, and the property owner was notified he can’t use the building as an assembly place.

Davis encouraged residents with knowledge of other cockfighting operations to call the Sheriff’s Department’s secret witness line at 755-7898.

“It’s something we’re going to continue to work on,” Davis said about cockfighting.