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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 29, 2002

Police arrest three in Wai'anae cockfight raid

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honolulu police raided a Wai'anae cockfight yesterday, arresting three people as more than 500 gamblers and spectators of all ages crowded around the ring where one bloody rooster lay dead.

Alexter Viloria of 'Ewa steadies the "winning" rooster as a police officer removes a razor-sharp steel gaff from the animal's leg. Viloria and two others were arrested in connection with yesterday's cockfight.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Am I going to stop because I was arrested?" said Wai'anae construction worker Peter Ganaban, 30, just before the handcuffs were put on. "I don't know. How can I stop my culture?"

But Honolulu Police Sgt. Kyle Yonemura, who coordinated the raid by more than 20 officers, accompanied by news reporters and photographers, said cockfighting is a part of Hawai'i culture that is not only illegal, but troubles neighbors because of its huge crowds, and represents unacceptable cruelty to animals for entertainment and sport.

Police "suppression" raids such as that staged yesterday on a large dusty farm about a mile up Ma'ili'ili Road from Farrington Highway have also been part of the culture for decades, but have not been able to stamp out the activity.

No sooner had the team of undercover, vice and crime reduction officers returned from the first raid yesterday at 4 p.m. when they laid plans to stage a second raid on a cockfight in 'Ewa Beach later in the day.

There has been increased attention to cockfighting since the death, last November, of a man involved in an argument after a cockfight on Bannister Street in Kalihi.

A police officer holds a razor-sharp steel gaff, which owners attach to the legs of their birds.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

The only violence reported at most fights, however, is among the roosters, and police said they encountered no resistance in yesterday's raid.

Yonemura said the misdemeanor offenses of cruelty to animals and possession of the razor-sharp steel gaff owners attach to the legs of their birds are punishable by fines of up to $1,000.

Eve Holt, spokeswoman for the Hawaiian Humane Society, waded into the ring with police and reporters, challenging a boy to explain why letting roosters stab each other to death should be allowed.

"Would it hurt you if you were stabbed by a gaff?" she asked the youngster.

The boy, Kalei Lawson, 14, of Wai'anae, said he had won $40 on cockfighting bets that day, and that he had been going to cockfights for years.

Lawson said yesterday's matches were relatively small scale, and described the police raid as "junk."

A makeshift parking lot near the cockfight was used by some of the estimated 500 spectators.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Another in the audience, who did not give his name, disputed Holt's claim that exposing children to the blood sport deadens their respect for others, animal and human alike.

"This is nothing compared to the violence on their video games and in the movies," the man said.

Cockfighting is legal in Oklahoma, Louisiana and parts of New Mexico, and opponents estimate that 30,000 to 40,000 people engage in the sport in the United States.

Police assembled the media at the Kapolei substation, hopeful that their sources could provide enough information to trigger a raid sometime during the afternoon.

At 2 p.m., the media regrouped behind the Wai'anae substation as officers in flak jackets and ski masks prepared for the raid. At a signal from a siren at 3:08 p.m., cars carrying reporters and photographers from two newspapers and four TV stations set out in a caravan down Farrington Highway to Ma'ili'ili Road.

Jeremy Cook, left, of Waialua and Peter Ganaban of Wai'anae were arrested in yesterday afternoon's police raid. The ladders in the background provided better views of the arena for spectators.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

The location was obvious from the presence of about 100 cars parked along the road, but reporters were stunned when they turned into the dusty rutted farm area and found another hundred or more cars parked in a makeshift lot.

Vendors were selling food and beverages from tents pitched around the area, and the smell of chicken manure rose through the steamy air as officers moved toward the 20-by-24-foot dirt "ring," which was surrounded by a few rows of makeshift bleachers and scores of ladders on which fans perched for a better view.

Many patrons streamed out of the area as soon as officers arrived, but others stayed, knowing from past experience that police would arrest only a few people actually seen placing the roosters in a fight or in possession of the steel gaffs.

Uniformed officers were questioning Ganaban and Jeremy Cook, 28, of Waialua, and Alexter Viloria, 49, an 'Ewa yard-care worker.

Viloria said he was holding the winning rooster in his arms, "but I guess I'm the loser today because I am being arrested." He said he had placed the rooster in the fight for a friend.

Cook, who retrieved the dead rooster from the ring, and Viloria were arrested for investigation of cruelty to animals and possession of gaffs, while Ganaban was arrested for investigation of possession of a gaff.

Reach Walter Wright at wwright@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8054.