Throughout the past couple of months, the media has reported on many different instances of people claiming they saw “creepy clowns” lurking in the woods, sneaking around their property, among other places. In addition, people have been making anonymous online accounts and posing as clowns, apparently trying to scare people or get attention. While no reports have indicated that people posing as clowns have caused any actual harm – and many clown-related reports have been doubted as real – there still may be criminal implications regarding this odd and creepy clown trend.
Reports of people seeing clowns in person have not involved the clowns threatening physical harm, at least not yet. However, people have been using the clown disguise to make concerning threats online. For example, Pennsylvania police officers arrested a teenage boy in early October for making online threats of violence against two different high schools – Freedom High School and Liberty High School. The boy allegedly made a false account on Facebook titled “Danny Sosa (Aka killer clown)” and wrote posts posing as a dangerous clown. One post read as follows: “October 10th liberty high school be ready we coming,” and the post also included emojis of a knife and a devil.
While police determined that there was no credibility to the threats and thought the boy was using the clown threats as a prank, he was still charged with terroristic threats and will face probation and disciplinary action from his school. This is one example of how police do not take threats of violence lightly, even if it was simply meant to be a prank.
Some people claim that if they see a person dressed in a clown costume, they may chase the clown down and take action to prevent any violence from the person in the costume. However, no supposed clown-sightings have involved any threatening actions by the costumed individual. If you see a clown in the woods or around your property and you take physical action when there is no threat of violence to you, you could face serious assault charges. You cannot claim self-defense for assault against a clown unless the person dressed as the clown was the initial aggressor and actually posed a threat that created the fear of imminent physical harm. Therefore, if you do spot a clown simply standing there and not taking any threatening actions, you should not try to chase that person, tackle them, or touch them physically in any way.
Law enforcement officers are skeptical that many reports of clown sightings are false and are simply an attempt for people to get attention as past of the new clown trend. This is because media outlets have been reporting on clown sightings and many people are seeking their fifteen (or five) minutes of fame by claiming they saw a clown. Making false reports to people can have serious consequences, however, and can result in criminal liability. The Pennsylvania State Police have issued a warning to PA residents, which addresses false reporting. The bulletin pointed out that several people in other states have been arrested for making false reports to police about clown sightings and reminds us of the consequences of such false reports.
The smartest thing to do regarding the clown trend is to ignore it whenever possible. If you do feel threatened by a person dressed as a clown or notice online threats, you should contact police. However, if there is no threat, you should not assault the clown or make false or embellished reports regarding a sighting.
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