Twelve charged for running local dog fighting ring

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by Chris Patterson

MILWAUKEE -- The U.S. Attorney's Office and Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office announce they've busted a Milwaukee dog fighting.

We're told 23 dogs were involved in this dog fighting ring. By the time law enforcement rescued the dogs from their owners, one was already dead. The other 22 dogs are being cared for by the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission(MADACC).

Law enforcement executed six federal search warrants. Investigators say they found dog fighting training activities in one of the homes they searched. They also found a wooden dog fighting ring in one of the basements. Three firearms were also recovered by police.

12 people are facing criminal charges. Ten suspects are being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice while two suspects are being charged by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office. All ten federally charged suspects are facing multiple years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines upon conviction.

Police have arrested nine of the ten federally charged suspects. 31-year-old William Walker is still at large.

Travis Hazlett

According to the criminal complaint, a federal prison inmate Lonnie McGhee tipped off Milwaukee police about the dog fighting ring Travis Hazlett was involved in. He told police Hazlett was a recruiter for the Gangster Disciples street gang and a dog breeder. McGhee says Hazlett sold him a pit bull bred for dog fighting. 

The complaint also alleges Hazlett would fight his dogs while Terry Robinson put up money for betting on Hazlett's dog. Robinson is one of the ten people facing federal charges in this case.

Police executed a search warrant on Hazlett's home located on the 4400 block of N. 36th St. In that home police found three dogs, two males and a female, chained in the basement. Police observed dog urine and feces in the area the dogs were chained up.

McGhee told police the female dog they seized was the dog that bore the pit bull he purchased from Hazlett. According to McGhee, Hazlett called him offering to purchase the dog back from him after that female dog was taken by police. Police say Hazlett also contacted them asking for his dogs back.

Veterinarian Dr. Ann Gutting examined Hazlett's three dogs once they arrived at MADACC. The doctor noted scaring on all three dogs around their forelimbs and head. One of the male dogs was missing muscle mass, while the other had fractures in all four of his canine teeth.

Hazlett is charged with five counts of Instigating Fights Between Animals and one count of Mistreatment of Animals. If convicted, Hazlett could serve up to 21 years in jail.

Tom Zollicoffer

According to court documents, police took statements from Patrick Woodley about illegal dog fighting in Milwaukee. Woodley is a citizen who the district attorney's office guaranteed wouldn't be charged for his statements.

Woodley told police, Zollicoffer hosted several dog fighting events at his home during the summer of 2011. Woodley admitted to attending these events in Zollicoffer's basement. He recalled one fight between Zollicoffer's dog Layla and another man's dog Fiesty. Woodley says this fight was used to settle a dispute between Zollicoffer and Fiesty's owner.

Woodley says it is known that Zollicoffer disposes of his dogs by hanging them from his basement beams until they strangulate to death.

The complaint says Milwaukee police received a 911 emergency call about dog fighting from a woman on August 23, 2011. She told police she was in the basement during the dog fight, and that one of the dogs had flesh torn from its face during a fight.

Police executed a search warrant on Zollicoffer's house on September 1, 2011, and found his dog Layla buried in a shallow grave in the home's backyard. Court documents say the dog's body appeared fresh and had no signs of decomposition. A veterinarian with MADACC said the dog likely died within 24 hours before police found it.

An adult male pit bull and pit bull puppy were found in Zollicoffer's basement. Police also found a broom handle covered with bite marks. Police say this was a breaking stick, a tool used by dog fighters to pry open the jaws of dogs during fights.

Milwaukee police detectives recovered videos of dog fighting from Zollicoffer's phone. One video dated April 10, 2011 showed pit bull fighting in a basement. Zollicoffer is narrating the dog fight video. In another video recorded on August 27, 2011, Zollicoffer is heard saying "Gotta keep good footage of Layla. That's the gamest bulldog you ever see! Gamest of the gamest."

Demetrius Boyce

Demetrius Boyce is facing federal charges for allegedly owning seven pit bull terriers. Boyce is facing two counts carrying a possible sentence of five years each.

Tyrone Lewis and William Walker

Federal indictment documents say Tyrone Lewis participated in developing a pool of pit bulls to take part in dog fights. The documents alleged that Lewis worked with William Walker to run dog fights at William's house. 

Three pit bulls with injuries consistent with dog fighting were found in Lewis' home. After being incarcerated at the Milwaukee County Jail, Lewis called Williams and told him to "clean up" evidence of dog fighting. 

Investigators say both Lewis and Williams owned a wooden dog fighting pit in the basement of William's home. They also found a spring pole and soft bite stick meant to train the dogs.

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