Dozens of dogs seized in search

Saturday, July 10th 2004, 10:25 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ State narcotics agents seized more than 80 pit bulldogs after three search warrants were served Friday in Checotah and at the Tulsa residence of a former NFL football player.

The seizures are part of an investigation that resulted in the confiscation of 141 dogs in May and the arrests of 22 people, including former running back LeShon Johnson, said Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.

``When we did the roundup in May, we knew we didn't get all of the people involved, nor did we get all of the dogs,'' Woodward said. ``Today, we found the dogs we were looking for, as well as documentation that will help tie seven to 10 more people to this dog fighting and drug distribution network.''

Many of the dogs reportedly were branded with a ``5,'' which indicates the dogs likely belonged to Johnson, Woodward said.

Johnson, a former Haskell High School star who later played running back in the National Football League, was arrested in Hughes County two months ago on dogfighting, conspiracy and racketeering counts.

Some evidence was found at the Checotah-area residence of Luther Johnson Jr., LeShon Johnson's brother. Investigators also found 20 dogs at the Checotah home of Brian McLain, brother-in-law of Luther Johnson Jr., Woodward said.

The first group of 53 dogs, mainly pit bulls, were taken to the Tulsa Animal Shelter, where they will be examined.

Officials with the Humane Society of the United States, which is covering the initial costs to transport the dogs, said many of the dogs were in bad shape.

``Besides obvious injuries they received while fighting, many also appeared to be malnourished,'' said Jay Sabatucci, regional coordinator of the organization's Southwest Regional Office.

Oklahoma Veterinary Board officials also worked with the OBNDD to find documents and animals tied to the alleged dogfighting ring, he said. The documents included sales receipts, breeding certificates, fight schedules.

Johnson was a standout high school running back at Haskell before playing college football at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Northern Illinois, where he finished sixth in the 1993 Heisman Trophy voting race.

He played for the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants in the NFL before ending his career in the XFL four years ago.

Johnson overcame lymphoma cancer in 1998 and started for the Giants.

Dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states and is a felony in Oklahoma.