Fifty (50) people from 11 states were arraigned today in Benton County. It took two courtrooms and 2 judges to handle the numbers. They are still looking for 30-40 more people. The charges are illegal dog fighting and some will be charged with weapons violations because of shots fired.
This comes after law enforcement raided an active dogfighting event early Sunday in rural Benton County.
Upwards of 200 attended the dogfighting ring, which was located of Highway 72 off Steward Lane in northern Benton County, authorities said.
Sixty sheriff deputies from Marshall, Benton, DeSoto, Fayette (Tenn.), and Hardeman (Tenn.) counties, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Mississippi Wildlife and Game and members of the Humane society were fired upon by some of the attendees as the dogfighting ring was unfolding.
Though 50 were arrested, several attendees fled into the woods. The suspects arrested are from Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, California, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi.
Two of the pit bulls used in the actual fight had to receive emergency care after losing a lot of blood and going in to shock, said Chris Schindler, Humane Society manager of animal fighting investigations. One of the dogs is not doing well.
"Dogfighting is a despicable crime that will not be tolerated in Marshall County," said Marshall County Sheriff Major Kelly McMillen. "We are grateful for the assistance and expertise of The Humane Society of the United States and all the other departments involved to make this a successful case."
"This one drew some of the biggest players in organized dogfighting from all over the country," Schindler said.
One of the dogfighting suspects is from northern California, Major McMillian told FOX13 News. The suspect has eluded law enforcement for the past four years.
"This dogfighting case will send shockwaves through the dogfighting community," Schindler said. "It's going to show no matter where they try to have these operations, if law enforcement finds out, they're going to take swift action."
Seventy-six (76) vehicles were impounded. Suspected dogfighting paraphernalia and an undetermined amount of cash were also seized.
The raid was the outcome of a multi-agency investigation and involved tracking suspected dogfighters from around the country as they traveled to the match on a property in rural Benton County.
"We are pleased that our cooperative efforts in Mississippi resulted in the bust of a massive dogfight in progress and allowed us to rescue these dogs," Schindler said. "The Humane Society of the United States is proud to assist the dedicated officers in Marshall and Benton counties to crack down on a dogfighting ring that spanned the country."
The Humane Society placed the dogs in a temporary shelter and provided the canines with veterinary treatment. The Humane society said it is treating all 20 of the pit bulls as individuals in getting the best care.
"They're going to get all the things they may have never known: kindness and proper care and enrichment," Schindler said. "Things they so desperately needed."
The Humane Society's animal fighting experts assisted law enforcement in identifying and documenting suspected dogfighting evidence and forensic crime scene evidence, as well as coordinating the dog rescue effort.
Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states.
The raid remains under investigation.
Benton County is 75 miles southeast of Memphis.
FOX13 News reporter Kristin Tallent contributed to this report.
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