Police line do not cross
File photo: US police tape Reuters

A man in Las Vegas has been charged with attempted murder after a mannequin was bashed over the 'head' with a hammer.

Shane Allen Shindler, 30, was arrested after police CCTV recorded footage of one of their decoy mannequins being hit over the head in an area where two homeless people had recently been killed.

The mannequin had been dressed up to look like a rough sleeper, and police stated they believed Shindler was "out to kill" when he kicked and then hit the mannequin on 22 February.

He was initially charged with carrying a concealed weapon, but the charge was added during a hearing, in which Schindler was also ordered to be subject to a mental competency evaluation.

Two homeless men died of head injuries in the first two months of the year, which authorities believe may be linked. The body of Daniel M. Aldape, 46, was found on 4 January while the body of David H. Dunn, 60, was found on 3 February.

Police reportedly suspect Schindler of being involved in the killings, although he has not been charged in connection with either case.

Schindler has admitted kicking the mannequin and hitting it with a hammer, but said he was aware it was a mannequin and not a person when he did so, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.

However, in court Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo argued at a hearing that there was no way Schindler could have known the mannequin was not human, and argued Schindler was "a severe danger to the community".

Schindler's lawyer did not give any comment but confirmed to the Associated Press that her client will be pleading not guilty.

Explaining the decision to use a decoy, Downtown District Patrol Commander Capt. Andrew Walsh told AP: "We had a sense of urgency.

"We didn't want these cases to fall by the wayside because they were homeless. We had to think of something that's not traditional."