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Kansas farm device triggers police response to shooting call

Associated Press logoAssociated Press 9/24/2020

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities responding to a call about deputies being shot at briefly shut down the Kansas Turnpike Wednesday night and sent an armored vehicle and drone to the scene.

It turned out the ruckus was coming from a propane cannon an 87-year-old watermelon farmer uses to scare away racoons and coyotes from his crops near Haysville, the Wichita Eagle reported.

About 10-12 watermelons were disappearing each night, so about a week ago Kenneth Simmons put a propane cannon in their field east of the Turnpike to scare off the predators, said his wife, Ester. The device can be put on a timer to set off a loud bang.

Officers were originally called at 9:09 p.m. about shots fired, said Sedgwick County Lt. Benjamin Blick. Two deputies made their way toward an abandoned vehicle and announced their presence.

“Their announcement was met with what they believed to be three gunshots,” Blick said in an email.

The Turnpike was shut down in both directions for 30-45 minutes.

An off-duty lieutenant who remembered something similar happened years ago in the area contacted officers to help connect them with the farmer. The armored vehicle and drone confirmed that it was the propane cannon before the scene was cleared.

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