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19 arrested at rural cockfight

Following up on a tip, the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office raided a cockfight in rural St. Croix County, about seven miles north of Glenwood City on Saturday, Jan. 24.

The address of the property where the fight took place is 1731 315th St. in the Town of Glenwood. Deputies found about 20 spectators at the scene. No proof of gambling was found, but it is illegal in Wisconsin to be present at a cockfight.

Cockfighting is illegal in all states and a felony in 39, including Wisconsin, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Watching a fight is a misdemeanor offense.

According to Sheriff John Shilts, when the deputies arrived at the dairy farm, they saw several people around a “makeshift shelter” and heard the sound of “loud chicken noises.” The deputies found a cockfighting ring and other items that indicated that a cockfight was taking place.

Good employees

According to St. Croix County records, the property is owned by veterinarian Marv Johnson of Roberts.

Johnson said Tuesday that he was totally unaware and shocked that there was a cockfight going on and that he was at the property at the time deputies conducted their raid.

Shilts said that Johnson has cooperated fully with his investigators and they have concluded he had no knowledge of the event.  

Despite what he has learned, Johnson said most of the people arrested have worked for him as long as 16 years and that “they are good, hardworking employees.”

He said some of the employees approached him several years ago about getting some chickens and he readily gave his permission.

“Who doesn’t want fresh eggs in the morning or a chicken barbecue? I saw them doing just that often,” Johnson said.

The fight took place in a storage shed on the property. Johnson said the employees approached a couple of years ago for permission to build a shed.

“I said sure. They have growing families and it made sense that they needed storage,” Johnson said.

Johnson repeated that he considered his employees to be good people and said that cockfighting is more common in some cultures.

“I question if they even knew they were doing something illegal,” Johnson said. “If they did, why would they risk doing it while I was on the property?”

Shilts said Johnson assisted deputies in helping ensure the safety of the roosters on site.

The 19 people arrested on charges of instigation of animal fights as a spectator were:

Jose D. Quechulpa-Tequil, 28, Glenwood City

Ramon Serrano, 55, Lakeville, Minn.

Ernesto B. Benitez, 48, Amery

Manuel D. Galvez, West St. Paul, Minn.

Ricardo Llamas-Silva, 38, Clear Lake

Elpidio Gorostieta-Flores, 39, New Brighton, Minn.

Agustin A. Benitez, 56, Turtle Lake

Idelio J. Benitez, 57, Amery

Luis M. Benitez, 25, Amery

Michael A. Sanchez, 33, St. Paul

Benito M. Benitez, 54, Amery

Juan C. Sanchez-Ortiz, 29, St. Paul

Iliberto Ayala-Vazquez, 55, St. Paul

Martin M. Rios, 44, Bloomington, Minn.

Sabino A. Sanchez, 23, St. Paul

Juan M. Enciso-Rojas, 31, Almena

Dario H. Melendez, 28, St. Paul

Ignacio Ochoa, 19, Faribault, Minn.

Ignacio Ochoa-Garcia, 53, Faribault, Minn.

Ten of the men were also charged with resisting or obstructing an officer. All the men posted bail and were released.

St. Croix County deputies were assisted by Polk County, Baldwin and Woodville officers as well at Wisconsin State troopers. 

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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