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Propane cannon leads to misunderstanding with officers, temporary closure of Kansas Turnpike

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 10:24 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2020 at 6:17 PM CDT
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SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) - Update Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020: A heavy police response with reports of shots fired and temporary closure of the Kansas Turnpike south of Wichita stemmed from a misunderstanding involving a propane cannon used to scare animals out of a watermelon patch.

Eyewitness News spoke with the owner of the propane cannon who explained the misunderstanding. He said he was asleep when officers contacted him about the noise coming from his property.

“(There are) all sorts of stories out there about what’s going on, but its nothing but a scare gun,” the property owner, Kenneth Simons said.

He showed officers the cannon he said is legal and they sorted it out.

“I put this scare gun back there," Simons said. "It’s just a propane fire scare gun and it’s on a timer and it pops every so often and that’s to scare the coons and coyotes out.”

The property owner and neighbors said they were surprised by the strong law enforcement response in the area.

“It’s pretty crazy. This is usually a calm neighborhood. We’ve had some accidents but never do you get this road blocked off with a bunch of sheriffs,” Colby Norris, who lives nearby, said.

Wednesday night, a Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputy and another officer were investigating a car on the side of the road when they heard three loud shots and called for help. The deputy believed someone was in the neighboring field, shooting at them.

What turned out to be the propane cannon does sound like a gunshot.

“In this case here, they absolutely felt that shots were being fired,” Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said. “...It’s a very tense situation when you think you’re being at, especially with long rifles.”

Easter said he hasn’t seen anything like Simons' propane cannon. And while it’s legal and does serve the purpose of scaring away animals from eating his watermelons, it did put a scare into Sedgwick County deputies Wednesday night. It’s a situation where communication and the utilization of resources were crucial in getting to the bottom of what was happening.

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An emergency response to a report of officers in trouble and shots fired prompted closure of the Kansas Turnpike just south of Wichita Wednesday night between mile markers 33 and 42.

Sedgwick County dispatch confirms this began with a call to check an abandoned vehicle near 87th Street South and the Kansas Turnpike. A little after 9 p.m., a report of an officer in trouble and shots fired followed. Wichita police and other local departments responded as backup to Sedgwick County deputies.

By 10:20 p.m., there were no reports of injuries and the turnpike reopened in both directions. Investigators remained on the scene to determine the source of the suspected shots. By late Wednesday night, it seemed there was a misunderstanding and that no shots were fired at officers.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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