Blackberry Twp. animal rights activist beaten in Ohio after exposing cockfighting pit

Hindi: ’I kind of thought they were going to kill me’

BLACKBERRY TOWNSHIP – While continuing his mission to end illegal cockfighting, Steve Hindi of Blackberry Township, founder of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, was beaten and threatened while exposing a cockfighting pit in Lawrence County, Ohio last month.

He suffered bruises, scratches, contusions, a broken rib and a gash to his head that took six staples in the Jan. 3 attack in which he was hit, kicked and stomped on, Hindi said.

“I kind of thought they were going to kill me,” Hindi said. “Even though when they are so completely unrestrained, it’s because they don’t have any concerns about having to be responsible for their actions. They don’t anticipate any punishment whatsoever. They can get away with anything. And I think this is exactly the case. This is what we find with cockfighting.”

Hindi and two of his associates were documenting a cockfighting operation on Wiseman Cemetery Hill Road in Lawrence County, population 62,000, located at the southernmost tip of Ohio on the Kentucky border.

Hindi has video that shows a man who slammed a drone controller out of his hands, then the man smashes it against a mailbox.

“That’s my violation (expletive)!” a bearded man in a ball cap, dark hoodie sweatshirt and blue jeans yells at Hindi as he smashes the controller.

Then the same man approaches the vehicle where his associate, SHARK investigator Adam Fahnestock, is in and slaps the window. Another man can be seen in the video as well.

“Drive! Get out of there!” Hindi can be heard yelling at Fahnestock.

Fahnestock drives away, then the video goes all topsy-turvy while the audio captures the sounds of a beating and Hindi groaning and crying out in pain.

“Last chance. Leave or you die,” one of the attackers can be heard saying to Hindi.

A tan pickup truck followed Fahnestock’s vehicle and repeated rammed it until it went off the road into a ditch, also captured on video inside the SUV.

Hindi crawled away and hid behind some trees after the beating. What the attackers didn’t know was that the group had two cars and more associates. Hindi said he contacted them via walkie-talkie and they finally reconnected.

Attackers identified

Using the video footage, Hindi’s organization identified his two attackers and provided the video and identifying information to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.

So far, the two men his video identified have not been charged, Hindi said.

“What Sheriff Lawless needs to understand is that we’re not going to back off until cockfighting is finished everywhere in Lawrence County and until the violent criminals who attacked me and my associate are arrested, charged and prosecuted,” Hindi said

Voice mail messages left with Lawrence County Sheriff Jeffrey Lawless and County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson were not returned.

Hindi said where cockfighting occurs is where law enforcement should be – because it attracts other criminal activity.

“Police will not touch them and that is why it has become such a conduit for illegal weapons, drugs, prostitution and organized crime,” Hindi said.

“If you are a criminal and there is a place where … you have license to be a criminal, that is where you are going to conduct criminal business,” Hindi said. “That is the very place where law enforcement should be on them like white on rice – places where cockfighting exists. It only exists because police turn a blind eye. … It’s a flea market for criminal activity.”

In 2019, SHARK humane investigator Janet Enoch had sought support from the Kane County Board to limit the number of roosters that could be kept as a way of reducing the incidence of cockfighting. While cockfighting is illegal, raising roosters for it is not, she had said.

‘If you don’t want to continue living, keep talking’

The beatdown on Hindi this year follows backlash he received in July 2020 when he shut down a cockfighting operation in Kentucky.

SHARK and the Humane Farming Association together launched this campaign against cockfighting in Kentucky, identifying four large venues, two in Butler County and one each in McCreary and Clay counties.

In response to his anti-cockfighting work, Hindi began receiving abusive, threatening and vulgar phone calls.

He received 13 calls from July 25 to Aug. 18 and filed a complaint Aug. 23 with the Kane County Sheriff.

“If you want to keep living, shut your (expletive) mouth,” the message left on July 25 stated. “If you don’t want to continue living, keep talking.”

Hindi went before a Kane County Grand Jury and got a subpoena issued for the phone records of the Verizon Wireless caller which identified him, records show.

Kane deputies worked with the FBI to provide information about the person – Jeremy M. Carrion, 43, of the 17000 block of Wood Duck Run, Laurel Hills, North Carolina – according to Kane County Sheriff reports.

A deputy called Carrion and recognized his as the same voice in the threatening messages to Hindi, reports stated.

The deputy told Carrion that saying the things he said to Hindi over the phone is a criminal offense and Carrion said he would not call again, the report stated.

Four felony charges of phone harassment and “made several harassing and abusing statements including a threat to kill,” were filed against Carrion Aug. 24, according to Kane County Court records.

Ten misdemeanor charges of phone harassment were also filed against Carrion on and a warrant was issued for his arrest, court records show.

Carrion has not been arrested yet, but Hindi said the warrants are active.

“I’m fairly OK with that,” Hindi said. “He is a truck driver who comes into Illinois. And at some point, he is going to get stopped. … The warrants are out there.”

More information about SHARK and access to its videos is available at www.sharkonline.org.