ELIZABETH — A Union County grand jury has returned indictments against nine men involved with a dog fighting ring in Elizabeth, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced.
Charged with two counts of dogfighting offenses, both third-degree crimes listed under New Jersey’s animal cruelty statute, are 19-year-old Shaquille Mars, 20-year-old Leon King, 20-year-old Rahman Johnson, 21-year-old Tamir Norville, 22-year-old George Parker, Jr., 28-year-old Larry Polanco, 36-year-old Algernon Norville, and 64-year-old Nathaniel Thompson, all Elizabeth residents, as well as 21-year-old Rashadik Johnson of Irvington. Norville was charged with two additional third-degree dogfighting offenses.
A joint investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Guns, Gangs, Drugs, and Violent Crimes Task Force, the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the FBI’s Newark Division, the New Jersey State Police, and the Elizabeth Police Department culminated on the night of March 21, with arrests made at a Magnolia Avenue home following a traffic stop of a van nearby.
Located in the home and the vehicle were a total of 17 dogs, several with obvious injuries and most being kept in small, dirty steel or plastic cages; a treadmill allegedly used to build up the dogs’ endurance levels in preparation for fights; a dog fighting ring stained with blood; various collars, chains, and harnesses; a pellet gun, marijuana, and a stolen ATV.
The dogs recovered as a result of the operation were turned over to the custody of the SPCA, which placed them in three rehabilitative care centers elsewhere in the state.
The New Jersey statute criminalizing dog fighting was amended in 2013 in order to make involvement in such activity a third-degree criminal offense punishable by three to five years in state prison.
These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.