INDEPENDENCE, Mo.—Police responding to a rare alligator sighting in suburban Kansas City took quick action to dispatch of the beast, shooting it in the head, as instructed, while it lurked menacingly in the weeds leading down to a pond.
It wasn't until a second rifle shot bounced off the reptile's head that the officers realized they had mortally wounded a concrete lawn ornament.
A resident of a subdivision near the pond called police Saturday evening to report that his children spotted the alligator while they were playing in some nearby woods.
After consulting a conservation agent, who told them to kill the gator if they felt it posed a danger, one of the officers shot it twice in the head before realizing something was up, said Tom Gentry, an Independence police spokesman.
"It didn't move," Gentry said. "They inched up closer and closer and discovered it was a mock-up of a real alligator made to look like it was real."
In the officers' defense, it was growing dark when they shot the fake gator and it was partially submerged in the weeds.
The property owner told police that the gator was meant to keep people off his property, Gentry said. Officers told him a no-trespassing sign would have been wiser.
"Now he'll have to patch up his alligator," Gentry said.
Conservation agent Derek Cole said the department has received calls in the past about alligators that had been set free in populated areas, so there was no reason to believe the Saturday sighting wasn't valid.
"The department doesn't get involved in something like that," Cole said. "They asked if they could go ahead and dispatch it if it was a danger, and I said there's a kill shot on alligators, a small kill shot on the head. I said if they can get a shot like that, go ahead."