Derrill Rockwell mistakenly shoots red mohawk hairdo he thought was a bird

As this Style Bistro tribute to the horse-mane mohawk demonstrates, extreme hairdos are often inspired by the animal kingdom. Still, most of us can recognize them as being of human origin -- but apparently not Derrill Rockwell, who's been sentenced for shooting a woman's coiffure after mistaking it for a bird.

The story comes to us from The Daily Sentinel, the paper of record in my hometown of Grand Junction -- a place where mohawks aren't exactly commonplace, although a friend of mine proudly rocked one there in the early '80s.

Back on October 5, the paper reports, Rockwell spotted what he thought was a red bird that had been making life miserable for his cats on his property, in the vicinity of the Orchard Mesa Cemetery. So he grabbed his trusty .22 caliber rifle, drew a bead on the foul fowl and fired -- at which point he heard a sound that let him know he'd struck the target. Problem is, said noise wasn't from a winged creature emitting a final squawk but a 23-year-old woman with a wound to the head.

What the woman was doing in the area is unclear. Police believe she was passed out on a hill about ninety feet away from where Rockwell unleashed his shot; officers reportedly found a small bag of meth not far from where she'd been.

Afterward, Rockwell's stories weren't always a paragon of consistency. He allegedly told a nurse he'd heard noises outside, found the woman bleeding and rushed her to the hospital, where she was treated and released. But that didn't really explain why he'd tossed his rifle in the Colorado River. Then again, due to a 1995 felony burglary conviction, he wasn't supposed to own a gun of any kind.

Six days passed before Rockwell shared the mistaken-bird tale with cops, and in the end, the local DA wasn't able to prove something else had motivated the trigger-pull. Hence, he was ultimately sentenced to five years probation for felony possession of a weapon by a prior offender, to which he pleaded guilty.

Rockwell will also be required to pay $10,000 in restitution, proving once again that a bird in hand is a lot cheaper than one on the head.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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