The Secret Service has joined the investigation after an effigy of President Barack Obama was found hanging from a highway bridge.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp said sheriff's deputies handled the initial call after someone hung a dummy wearing a full suit and a mask of the president off the highway bridge.
Authorities were notified at 5:30 a.m. Monday about an object hanging from the Lesholz Bridge over Interstate 70 near Grain Valley, which is about 20 miles east of Kansas City. The effigy was hanging from the westbound side of the interstate.
Sharp said the sheriff's office received three 911 calls. The callers thought an actual person was hanging from the bridge.
"It's still dark at 5:30am. All they could see was the outline of what appeared to be a body," he said.
Authorities shut down the highway while they investigated an item attached to the dummy that prompted them to call an Independence area bomb and arson squad.
However, no explosives were found on the effigy.
Authorities aren't detailing what type of mask was on the effigy because it is important to their investigation while talking to potential suspects. Sharp also declined to say whether the dummy was hanging from a noose.
The highway was reopened after no explosives were found.
Deputies said they are not releasing images of the effigy or the 911 calls. The investigation is continuing.
The Secret Service will determine whether any crimes occurred. Because of free speech protections, some have not been charged with a crime when an Obama effigy has been hung in other cases across the nation. However, charges were filed when items were allegedly taken for the creation of an effigy.
Sharp stressed that he would have called in the Independence Police Department's bomb squad as a precaution no matter what type of dummy was hanging whether it was Santa Claus or Captain Kangaroo.
Jerry Vest, who owns a costume shop in Kansas City, KS, said he checked with his cashiers to make sure no one had bought an Obama mask recently. He said no such purchase was made or he would have reported the details to authorities.
"I thought it was totally disrespectful," he said.
If you have any information, call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.
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