La BLANCA, Texas (CBS Houston/AP) — Masked gunmen opened fire during an illegal cockfight at a Texas ranch near the border with Mexico early Thursday, leaving three people dead and eight wounded, authorities said.

People attending the cockfight ran into the brush when shots rang out shortly after midnight at the rural property near La Blanca, about 15 miles northeast of McAllen. Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said officers are hunting for the gunmen.

“This has to be the crime scene from hell,” Trevino told The Monitor. “It was a chaotic situation.”

Detectives and crime scene technicians picked over the site. The ground was littered with beer cans and cups, near a low corrugated metal pavilion with wooden bleachers where the cockfights took place.

“Everything has been contaminated, so now we need to cull through that to see if there’s anything we can use,” Trevino told The Monitor.

The property is located in a rural 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, unoccupied white home. Further back, a ramshackle trailer blocks the line of sight.

Trevino told KRGV-TV that the cockfighting site was large and well established, with concession stands and bleachers.

The sheriff’s office set up a mobile command center opposite a watermelon field.

Sheriff’s dispatcher Gloria Felix said investigators do not know what prompted the shootings. Felix had no details on conditions of the wounded nor how many people were at the cockfight.

Cockfights showcase battles between birds that have been fitted with sharp metal blades or curved spikes on their legs. Spectators gamble on which bird will be victorious in the sometimes hour-long fights that end when one or both of the birds are dead or maimed. The last state to ban cockfighting was Louisiana, in 1998.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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