WASHINGTON, D.C. - Twenty-three snowmen and a lifesize plastic Santa Claus are in critical condition this Monday after an off-duty, plainclothes officer shot up a Washington, D.C. area community snowball fight, said authorities.
The 28-year-old officer had no previous record of violence against either snowmen or Saint Nick props, and authorities indicated he was an "average" cop by all accounts, who "never really drew that much attention to himself" until the incident.
The plainclothes grinch had just driven into the area of a snowball fight, organized online at the popular Web site Twatter, when his vehicle was pelted with several snowballs, police said. At that point, the officer exited the vehicle and began to yell at the crowd, drawing his gun.
Entering the area of the snowball fight, he opened fire, taking by complete surprise nine hapless snowmen the participants had finished building only minutes before.
"People were running and scrambling, in every direction - many of 'em still holding snowballs in their hands," said Fross T. Guisewight, describing the grisly winter scene. "Every snowman was down - most of 'em got it in the head, and one of 'em's carrot nose got blasted clean off his face."
"I heard shots and screaming," said a 19-year-old student who refused to be identified. "At first I thought I'd been hit with another snowball, but then I realized... When somebody called out, 'Run, run!!' I turned and saw a... I saw a snowman's face disintegrate, right before my very eyes."
As onlookers rushed to ice-pack the wounded, the officer proceeded across the street, injuring 14 more snowmen in a 10-minute, 5-block rampage that only began to wind down when he finally ran out of ammunition.
That's when, according to a witness, he caught sight of a bright, 6-foot-tall, lighted electric Santa Claus standing next to a mailbox, waving his hand back and forth merrily as a speaker near his belly repeated a mocking, mechanical "Ho... Ho... Ho... Mer-ry Christ-mas!"
Screaming obscenities, even while issuing strong anti-holiday sentiments and bad tidings, the officer flung his empty guns at the Jolly Old plastic Elf; one smashed out a neighbor's car window while the other put a nasty ding in its left front fender as they both sailed "harmlessly" past St. Nick's head.
"Ho... Ho... Ho... Mer-ry Christ-mas!" was the reply as the waving hand squeaked faintly, the only sound save for a bit of still-tinkling glass.
Enraged, the off-duty, plainclothes officer leapt, throwing himself at the insubordinate Claus, literally "punching his lights out" before a group of on-duty, uniformed officers swarmed the area and wrestled the snow-thirsty, hom-icicled maniac into submission.
There was no immediate indication of motive, and acquaintances of the officer noted he had even built a snowman of his own on at least one previous long winter's night.
Dozens of residents were left sobbing violently and clinging to each other as they attended a makeshift candlelight vigil to honor the fallen snowmen Sunday night, said authorities.
Experts predict these events will likely have a "chilling effect" on snowman building in the area for at least several weeks.