Undercover video offers gruesome look at Florida dogfighting ring

The footage, shot by a confidential government informant, was obtained by NBC News after eight people were indicted on federal dogfighting charges.

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By Aliza Nadi and Rich Schapiro

An undercover video obtained by NBC News offers a disturbing glimpse inside a Florida dogfighting operation.

The footage shot by a confidential government informant shows two pit bulls locked in a fight to the death as a group of men look on in a wooded location near Tallahassee.

"The clip very vividly describes the level of cruelty and depravity," Eric Mountin, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Florida, said.

"It's not unusual for these things to go on for hours," he added. "If you don’t see [it], you can’t fully appreciate the cruelty."

A second video, shot with an infrared camera aboard a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft in February, shows what appear to be two canines charging at each other, surrounded by a ring of people.

The videos were presented at a detention hearing after eight people from the Tallahassee area were indicted on federal dogfighting charges.

The footage was provided to NBC News by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida as part of an effort to help authorities track down other members of the dogfighting operation.

"If the public recognizes someone in this video, we encourage them to contact our office at 850-942-8430," Mountin said.

Authorities say the eight suspects participated in a large-scale illegal dogfighting ring that operated in northern Florida from 2014 through 2019. Four of the suspects ⁠— including the alleged ringleader, Jermaine "Tank" Hadley ⁠— were arrested in May on federal drug trafficking charges.

The investigation began 18 months ago when the Drug Enforcement Administration launched a probe into drug trafficking in the area. Using wiretaps, federal agents intercepted communications about dogfighting, prompting them to expand the investigation.

"We became more aware that dogfighting was a significant side enterprise, so to speak, that this group was involved with," Mountin said.

The authorities conducted raids across northern Florida that resulted in the rescue of almost 100 dogs. One of the suspects allegedly left a canine in a pool unattended as part of a training regimen, causing it to drown, according to the 83-count indictment unsealed last week.

Hadley's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The investigation remains ongoing. A law enforcement raid carried out last month demonstrates the challenges of catching suspects in the act of conducting dogfights.

On May 14, federal agents descended on a wooded location where dogfights were underway, Mountin said.

The agents recovered "a couple more dogs" and documented a bloody fighting pit, but they failed to apprehend any additional suspects.

"Our approach gave them a heads-up law enforcement was busting up the fight, and they scattered literally into the woods," Mountin said.