A boy who took a stray bullet in the chest was released from the hospital Thursday afternoon with the .22 caliber bullet still in place.

Brad Smoot, 11, 914 S. 1635 West, Orem, was watching his father use a motorized garden tiller at 5 p.m. Wednesday when he was shot, an Orem Police spokesman said."His father saw him grab his chest and fall to the ground," Det. Gerald Nielsen said Thursday. "He saw the hole in his chest and took the boy to the hospital." Smoot's father reportedly thought the tiller had thrown a rock at his son.

Nielsen said the bullet entered the right side of Smoot's chest and lodged about 2 inches in.

"The bullet traveled some distance be-fore it struck the boy," he said. "It's likely the person who shot it doesn't know anyone was hit."

Nielsen said wildlife officials apprehended three young males shooting protected birds in a restricted park area near Utah Lake just prior to 7 p.m. Thursday. They had three guns, one a .22 caliber rifle. The 16- and 20-year-old males are from Orem; the 18-year-old is from Provo.

There is no proof any of the three males shot the stray bullet, Nielsen said, but it was a possibility. Safety officials had hoped the bullet from Smoot's chest could be compared to one shot from the confiscated gun until they were told the bullet would not be removed.

"There was no serious trauma to the boy _ no extensive bleeding, no damage to internal organs," said Clark Caras, UVCC spokesman. "The doctors gave his parents the choice of getting him surgery and having him stay 10 days or leaving the bullet in and letting him go home and take antibiotics.

"He may have the bullet removed eventually if it causes problems, but there are lots of war veterans walking around with bullets in them that haven't caused any problems."

Caras said what saved the boy was the great distance the bullet had traveled before hitting him, thus lessening the impact. Smoot was released Thursday at 3:30 p.m., Caras said.

Nielsen said detectives would try to continue the investigation even without the bullet.

"If he is better off with the bullet in him, that's where it should stay, but without that evidence, we don't have much to go on."

Nielsen said citations were issued for the Utah Lake park violations.