Nearly two months after a referee was found dead inside a cockfighting ring outside Miami, the murder of a man known as “The Russian” among fans of the bloody sport remains unsolved — and no one wants to talk.
Detectives from the Miami-Dade Police Department found the body of Jose Raudel Garcia — known as “El Ruso” or “The Russian” due to his light complexion — riddled with bullets inside a secret cockfighting ring hidden among farms and nurseries west of Hialeah on April 20, the Miami Herald reports.
Garcia, a 46-year-old father of seven, still had a bag of refereeing equipment around his neck after being shot at close range. And although he was popular among cockfighting fans throughout Miami and the region, no one at the illegal cockfight called police to report the fatal shooting.
“It’s a very tight-knit community and no one wants to snitch,” Miami-Dade Homicide Detective Michael Brajdic told the newspaper. “I have not had a single tip on this — and there were upward of 50 people there.”
Garcia’s relatives ended up notifying police about the shooting after an unknown caller notified his brother in Hialeah, according to a search warrant filed in Miami-Dade circuit court, saying, “They shot your brother!”
Responding officers later found dozens of roosters, including some dead animals and others thrown into trash cans. Some were still housed in rows of cages, according to the Miami Herald.
Miami-Dade Police Department
In 2010, authorities in Miami-Dade launched a task force to address illegal slaughterhouses and other structures in the rural C9 Basin, northwest of Hialeah. A total of 20 cockfighting arenas were discovered and 175 properties were cited for having illegal structures, including where Garcia was gunned down.
“This is nothing new in the C9,” said Rick Roig, assistant director of the county’s code compliance office. “This is historically where it happens.”
The structures on the acre-plus property at NW 129th Avenue and NW 179th Street were torn down in 2011 before the land was sold to Antonio Guzman of Hialeah, according to the Herald. Guzman could not be reached for comment.
Despite not having necessary county permits to build new structures, a padded cockfighting arena with stadium-style seating was later built on the land. It also featured a full-service bar with food and a large board to keep score of the winning roosters.
“It was a very elaborate setup,” Bajdic told the newspaper. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
At least 50 people attended the cockfight, perhaps as many as 70, including Guzman, according to police. Guzman, for his part, told investigators he never saw a gunman and was near his car when shots rang out. It’s unclear whether Garcia was shot while a match was under way or was killed during a break in the action.
Miami-Dade Police Department
Garcia came to Miami more than 15 years ago from Cuba, the Herald reports. He was a staple in Miami-Dade’s cockfighting scene, which resulted in a few prior arrests, most recently in 2014 when he was among 158 people arrested for attending an illegal cockfight in the county.
He has also been arrested on more serious charges, including attempted murder in 2011, but that case was later dropped. He was also accused in 2016 of robbing a man at gunpoint, but Garcia beat those charges as well.
“He ran with a tough crowd and was no stranger to trouble,” Garcia’s former attorney, David Fernandez, told the Herald. “That said, he was a good father and husband that didn’t deserve to die. I hope somebody has the courage to come forward and tell us who murdered El Ruso.”
The Miami-Dade Police Department is offering a reward up to $3,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call (305) 471-2400.