NOBLE, Okla. — A police officer shooting at a snake apparently killed a 5-year-old boy who was fishing at a nearby pond, officials said.
Austin Haley was fishing with his grandfather, Jack Tracy, when Tracy said he heard a shot and saw something hit the water just a few feet in front of the boat dock where he was standing.
Moments later, a second shot hit Austin in the head.
A Noble police officer who had responded to a report of a snake in a tree apparently fired the deadly shot while trying to kill the snake on Friday, City Manager Bob Wade said.
"I was told that they tried several ways to get the snake down, but it was still hissing at them and firmly lodged," Wade said. "What I was told is that the owner of the home either suggested or agreed that they should go ahead and shoot the snake, and then everything happened from there."
Tracy thought someone must be trying to kill him and his grandson, so he put the child on the back of a 4-wheeler and drove to his daughter's house about 200 yards away.
"Then two officers came out of the brush over there," he told The Oklahoman. "They didn't tell us they were the ones who had been shooting or that they had shot him. They didn't admit a doggone thing."
The boy was pronounced dead at an Oklahoma City hospital, about 25 miles north of Noble.
Officer under investigation
Wade refused to identify the officer but said the person had been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
"This is so bizarre it has to be fully investigated," he said. "We're pretty sure circumstantially that it is the bullet from the police officer's gun, but it might be a bullet from someone else."
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown said a state investigation was under way, though it appeared the fatal shot had been fired by the officer.
Tracy has little doubt. "I'm not saying the cop shot him on purpose," he said. "But let me tell you — if I had a kid and put him in this car and didn't put him in a car seat and he got killed on the way to town, they'd charge me with murder ... and what this cop did is a lot worse than that."
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.