By Ken Ritter and Michelle Rindels
LAS VEGAS — Two chimpanzees escaped a Las Vegas backyard Thursday, with at least one of them jumping on a police car before officers killed one primate and tranquilized the other, authorities said.
Police say they had no choice but to kill after the agitated animals escaped their backyard enclosure about 10 a.m. and started running through a residential area.
The loose chimps caused a stir in northwest Las Vegas for nearly two hours, with police warning residents through Twitter not to leave their vehicles or homes and to avoid the area where the "dangerous" primates were roaming free.
By noon, the chimps were both stopped. Helicopter video showed one of the animals lying face down in the middle of a road, surrounded by animal control and police cars.
"They got out and the police did what they had to do," said Tony Paolone, who lives on the same street as the chimps.
Landscaper David Plunkett, 36, said he watched a male chimpanzee jumping on top of a police car with its lights on shortly before officers shot the animal dead and tranquilized its companion in the neighborhood.
Plunkett had the day off and heard a police helicopter overhead before he went outside and witnessed the takedown. He said the male chimp approached officers before they shot at it three times, but the female didn't seem to be aggressive.
Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said the female has been returned to a new enclosure at her owner's home. Kulin said the owner had the proper permits to keep the animals outside Las Vegas city limits, as well as a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Officer Marcus Martin told KLAS-TV the chimps were very large and estimated they weighed 170 pounds or more. Fully grown chimps can be as much as 5 1/2 feet tall when standing upright.
Chimpanzees have been known to attack people. Two adult chimpanzees viciously attacked a U.S. student last month after he entered their enclosure at a primate sanctuary in South Africa.
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Copyright 2012 Associated Press