Hawaii Illegal Cockfight Sees Fatal Shooting

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Two people died and three others were injured by gunshots over the weekend after a fight at an illegal cockfight in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Details remain sketchy, as many in the underground cockfighting scene fear to talk to police or reporters.

“Neighbors are also reluctant to get involved for fear of retaliation,” said Honolulu Police Chief Joe Logan. Profitable cockfights are often held by organized crime rings.

On this occasion, the fight did not go as planned. Local news outlet KITV reports that a 34-year-old man and a 59-year-old woman were pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital after being driven from the scene. Three other victims were also taken to a hospital in private vehicles, but were later released.

By Tuesday, two suspects had handed themselves in to police. Including a 16-year-old boy, as reported by Associated Press.

In My Blood

Cockfighting sees two roosters forced to fight with blades attached to their legs, and the surrounding audience bets on the outcome. It has been illegal across all 50 states since 2007, and in US territories since 2019. In Hawaii, cockfighting has been nominally banned since 1884.

But nevertheless, the practice remains widespread on the islands, even if underground. In March of this year, Hawaii police busted a cockfighting event in Kealakekua at which some 800 people were in attendance. They also seized drugs and unregistered weapons at the event.

Former Maui police Gary Yabuta says that any attempts to crack down on cockfighting in Hawaii will find it a tough ask.

“There’s a saying among chicken fighters: ‘It’s in my blood.’ It’s something that is so huge and so popular in Hawaii that it really can’t be controlled by law enforcement,” he said.

Yabuta now helps advise federal and local law enforcement on drug trafficking issues. He told reporters that cockfights often attract criminal figures who can bet hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time.

Cultural Rights

Others are concerned that this kind of violent event is indicative of a worrying trend in organized crime. It is the worst shooting in the state since 1997’s Xerox Corp warehouse incident that left seven people dead.

“People say, ‘I grew up with it. It’s a cultural thing. Papa had chickens … we went to chicken fights, that’s how we made our money,’” said Patty Kahanamoku-Teruya, of a local neighborhood association near to where the shooting took place. “It’s not a cultural right. It’s illegal. Period.”

Cockfights are not just an issue in Hawaii. The practice has a long history going back some 3,000 years ago.

The modern style spread around the world from the Philippines in the 1500s. Just last December, Alabama police busted one of the largest illegal cockfighting rings in US history.

When Donald Trump passed the law banning cockfighting in all US territories in 2019, some Puerto Ricans were put out, as it is a relatively popular spectator sport in the country. The last US state to make cockfighting illegal was Louisiana, doing so in 2008.

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