EDCOUCH, Texas — Masked gunmen opened fire during an illegal cockfight at a Texas ranch near Mexico early Thursday, killing three people and wounding eight others in what authorities described as a bloody massacre.
The attack at the ranch near Edcouch, a town about 15 miles northeast of McAllen, happened shortly after midnight and sent spectators fleeing from the makeshift bleachers surrounding the fighting ring into the brush. Authorities were searching for the attackers and for clues as to their possible motives, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said.
Homer Jasso, the justice of the peace for that area of the county, said the scene was shocking in its gore.
"It was a massacre," Jasso said. "I haven't seen this kind of violence in the valley here on my watch. ... This is the first time in my life I've seen something this bad."
Authorities were withholding the names of the slaying victims until after they had notified the men's families, but they said two of them, ages 49 and 53, were brothers. The other man was 42 years old.
Jasso said one man lay dead under the corrugated metal and wood pavilion that housed the bleachers, ring and concession stand. The bodies of the other two men were just outside. Investigators didn't know how many people were at the fights, but Jasso estimated there were 200 to 300 discarded beer cans on the ground. The bodies of at least 20 dead fighting roosters were also strewn about, although Jasso said he didn't know if the birds died in the ring or the gunfire.
"It was awful, awful, awful," Jasso said.
Sheriff's dispatcher Gloria Felix said the wounded were taken to hospitals, but she did not know their conditions.
The property is in an area crisscrossed by dirt roads where packs of dogs chase infrequent cars and tractors rumble between fields. A narrow dirt drive leads back through a fence posted with a no trespassing sign and past a small, low-slung, white home. Further back, a ramshackle trailer blocks the line of sight. An open field that neighbors said packed with cars on fight nights sat between the trailer and the fight site.