Harry Maurice Ackerman, Jr. Dogfighting - 21 pitbulls seized McKeesport, PA October 21, 2002
Thomas L. Ackerman   Westmoreland, Allegheny and  
Christopher Lee Bryce   Bedford Counties  
Robert Carl "Doc" Cooper      
Richard L. Henderson      
Dale Shaw      

(Photo courtesy of Kenneth R. Brooks, Tribune-Review) 6 people were arrested in an elaborate multi-county dogfighting ring of which wagering was from $100 to $50,000.  The animals were badly injured and sometimes faced electrocution.  It is believed the ring was in operation for at least 5 years.

The ring included breeders, trainers and promoters and a pet store owner using makeshift treadmills and steroids to get pit bulls into fighting shape.  The matches took place in 12x12foot rings in the basements of houses or warehouses.

The arrests came after a 1.5-year investigation in which 21 pit bulls were confiscated.

Among items seized in the arrests were guns, steroids, surgical instruments, underground dogfighting magazines and rigged power drills used to electrocute wounded dogs.  A photo album featured pit bulls with names like "Crazy, Screwface, Gizmo and Rampage".  Accompanying a photo of "Rampage" was a note "Lost 1 hour, 18 minutes."

Arrested were Harry M. Ackerman, Jr, age 30, his brother Thomas L. Ackerman, age 26 of 2005 Lamont Ave and Christopher Bryce, age 28 of 2009 Baldwin Ave all of McKeesport, Robert Cooper, age 48 of 163 Springwood Dr., Verona, Richard Henderson, age 49 of 632 S. Julian St., Bedford and Dale Shaw, age 46 of 217 Chestnut St., Jeannette.  All have been charged with cruelty to animals and will face a preliminary hearing before McKeesport District Justice Thomas Brletic.

(Photo courtesy of Kenneth R. Brooks, Tribune-Review of "Doc" Cooper at his time of arrest) Drug charges have also been filled against Henderson, Bryce, Thomas Ackerman, and Cooper.  Henderson for selling steroids to an undercover state trooper; Ackerman for selling marijuana to an undercover officer; marijuana and drug paraphernalia were found in Bryce’s bedroom; while Cooper, owner of Cooper’s Animal Supply in Penn Hills is charged with violations of the pharmacy act for selling a trooper a dog wormer used to prepare dogs for a fight.

Henderson, owner of Bedford Radiator also sold a trooper steroids, a portable weighing device and a $45 shocking device made out of “PVC” piping as well as a surgical staple gun and staple removed used on dogs injured in fights.  The PVC device was used to electrocute and thus euthanize a dog.

At Henderson’s business, two pit bulls, 2 treadmills and rubdown bench, a shocking device, medical supplies, steroids, cowhides and a break stick to break a dog’s hold all were seized.

When Thomas Ackerman’s house on Lamont St. and his parents’ house on Baldwin Avenue in McKeesport were searched 9 pit bulls, a dogfighting pit, several treadmills, documents relating to dogfighting and a shock device made of PVC pipe.  Ackerman told an undercover trooper that he pitted 2 of his dogs against each other and when one lost, he used a shocking device fashioned from a power drill to kill the dog.  The device had 2 spring-loaded alligator clips, which were placed on the dog’s lip and genitals before the shock was given, killing the dog in seconds. The dog was buried in the back yard and later exhumed by the state police.

In a search of Bryce’s home, police found marijuana and drug paraphernalia.  Police receive information from confidential informant who witnessed a dogfight at Bryce’s home.  After the fight, Bryce and T. Ackerman killed the losing dog and buried it in Bryce’s yard.  Police exhumed the carcass of a female pit bull.

Bryce and Henderson were being held at the Allegheny County Jail after being not able to post bond. 

Bryce was charged with

He is in jail on a $10,000 straight bond.

Henderson was charged with

He is in jail on a $40,000 straight bond.

Harry Ackerman was charged with

He is in the Allegheny County Prison after failing to post $5000 straight bond.

Thomas Ackerman was charged with

He is also in the Allegheny County Prison in lieu of a $25,000 straight case bond.

Cooper was charged with

He is believed to be the conspirator who held forfeiture money as well as supplying Droncit, a dog wormer available legally only through a veterinarian.

He is free on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

Shaw was charged with

9 pit bulls and 2 treadmills were seized from his home.  Shaw is free on a $5000 unsecured bond.

Also confiscated were 4 handguns.  The State Police, The DOA, US Postal Inspectors, McKeesport and White Oak police and Western and Central PA Humane Officers conducted the 18-month undercover investigation.

Shaw has been in trouble with the law before.  He was arrested on April 11, 2002 by Jeannette police for disturbing the peace by screaming at 4:30am and threatening police by attempting to “sic” a pit bull on them.  Pepper Spray was used to take Shaw into custody.  On October 21, 2002 Shaw was also charge with fighting by Jeannette police.

Lt. George Bivens, commander of the PA State Police organized crime unit showing some of the evidence involved in this case (Photo courtesy of Tony Tye, Post-Gazette and Kenneth R. Brooks, Tribune-Review)

Update January 31, 2003:  Thomas L. Ackerman plead guilty to cruelty to animals charges and was sentenced to one day time served in the Allegheny County Jail.

Update April 25, 2004:  The 5 remaining men plead guilty to animal cruelty charges.

References:

The Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review