After Shooting, Hawaii Plans to Crack Down on Cockfights

5 were shot, 2 fatally after fight early Saturday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 20, 2023 4:17 AM CDT
After Deadly Shooting, Hawaii to Crack Down on Cockfights
Lt. Deena Thoemmes, the lead homicide investigator for the Honolulu Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division, holds a photo of Jacob Borge during a news conference in Honolulu, Tuesday, April 18, 2023.   (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

Police in Hawaii have vowed to step up illegal gambling enforcement after one of the most serious shootings in state history called attention to the dangers that come with cockfighting, which has deep roots in the islands and remains popular despite being illegal. The shooting early Saturday in a rural community more than 30 miles from downtown Honolulu killed a man and woman and wounded three others. The Honolulu medical examiner’s office on Wednesday identified the man as Gary Rabellizsa, 34, and the woman as Cathy Rabellizsa, 59, the AP reports. Two suspects, including a 16-year-old boy, turned themselves in Tuesday, Honolulu police said.

Jacob Borge, 23, was charged Wednesday with first- and second-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and firearms charges, police said. Bail was set at $2 million. Petitions were filed against the juvenile for the same charges, police said. The shooting started with an argument at the end of a cockfight, police say. Despite being illegal in Hawaii since 1884, the fights between roosters with blades affixed to their legs have remained a part of life in the islands. Authorities say investigating cockfights is difficult in part because they are highly organized events on private property and their illegal nature and the large amount of money wagered means they often have links to organized crime.

The clandestine fights happen all over Hawaii, usually on large, remote properties shrouded by brush and accessible only by dirt roads, like in Waianae, where the weekend shooting took place. "Neighbors are also reluctant to get involved for fear of retaliation," Honolulu Police Chief Joe Logan said in a statement. Some in Hawaii worry that violence linked to cockfighting will grow more volatile in a state that previously had largely escaped the scourge of gun violence seen elsewhere in the US. (Federal courts have rejected challenges to former President Trump's 2018 ban on cockfighting in US territories.)

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