Mexican policeman kills crocodile
A Mexican police officer has been suspended over the killing of a protected crocodile. YouTube

A Mexican policeman captured on camera as he machine-gunned a protected crocodile to the cheers of onlookers has been suspended.

Authorities in the northwestern state of Sinaloa said they opened a criminal investigation into the animal's killing, after the related video was posted on YouTube, sparking outrage online.

In the clip, a civil-defence officer in uniform is seen opening fire with an assault rifle on the reptile that had been at a water treatment plant in the municipality of Ahome.

Officers had been trying to capture the animal, a Crocodylus acutus, or American crocodile - a protected species in Mexico - for a few weeks, as it posed a danger to the local population, Excelsior newspaper reported.

Footage that emerged on 27 March 2015 shows the moment the crocodile was finally baited close to shore with a net. The policeman is initially seen as he waits beside the lagoon while two men pull the animal closer.

As the crocodile surfaces from the water, the policeman guns it down with bursts of automatic fire. He finishes it off with a pistol and the help of a colleague. Onlookers and men sporting civil defence shirts cheer and applaud at the scene.

The graphic video can been seen below:

The officer is now facing criminal charges due to the American crocodile protected status according to Mexico's environmental agency PROFEPA. The Ahome city government said the policeman has been placed on leave pending an investigation. He faces up to nine years in jail.

The local mayor Arturo Duarte Garcia said that, although the excess of violence displayed in the video was "regrettable" the animal was potentially dangerous.

"I do not fail to recognize the potential risk the animal represented, and so the decision (to kill it) should be analyzed in view of the danger, and the need to protect the public," he said.

PROFEPA, however, claimed the crocodile was killed for no reason, AFP reported.