Clown calls test patience of Clark County law enforcement

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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Clark County sheriff’s deputies have been responding to a handful of weird clown sightings each of the past few nights, a clearly exasperated sheriff’s Sgt. Brent Waddell said Thursday night.

On one call Wednesday night, deputies went to the Felida area and found a 17-year-old boy, in some clown regalia, and his buddy messing around in traffic, Waddell said.

“It’s not illegal to be a clown, but it is illegal to be running in the roadway,” Waddell said.

The boys were not arrested, but were brought to their parents, “who provided the appropriate parental response,” he said.

Shortly after that, deputies responded to a call of someone wearing a mask and aluminum foil over his face who frightened a mother and daughter when he tried to enter their home.

Deputies arrived and nabbed a 17-year-old boy, Waddell said.

He was arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct and criminal impersonation, because he gave someone else’s name when questioned, Waddell said.

“That one is a little bit more concerning,” Waddell said, even though the arrest didn’t really stem from a “creepy clown” call.

On Monday morning, shortly before police responded to a shooting at the Wal-Mart on Highway 99, deputies checked on a report of a gaggle of machete-wielding clowns at Heritage High School, he said.

Naturally, it was unfounded, he said.

Police agencies and schools around the country have been dealing with weird clown sightings in recent weeks, and a man wearing a clown mask and boxing gloves was arrested at a Portland school after menacing students and an assistant principal.

“Although police made an arrest today based on the suspect’s actions, the threat of clown violence has largely been driven by social media reports rather than actual incidents,” the Portland Police Bureau said in a news release.

Creepy clown panics — where scores of people report seeing strange clowns out and about — have happened several times over the past few decades, with some of the first of the urban-legend style, modern “phantom clown” sightings reported in western Massachusetts in 1981, according to researcher Benjamin Radford.

Radford, a columnist for Discovery News, skeptic and writer, wrote about the clown phenomenon in his book “Bad Clowns,” which was published April 1 — the timing no doubt coming at the great pleasure of his publisher.

The first dust-up coincided with unfounded panic over Satanic ritual abuse around the same time, he told the radio program “On the Media,” and they often coincide with periods of social uncertainty.

He added there have been virtually no documented abductions, assaults or other instances of anyone being harmed in connection to “phantom clowns,” or the kind reportedly seen wandering around, out of place.

The phenomenon tends to snowball in the news and spawn copycats, he said. Often, they’re just kids or young adults trying to be weird or irritating.

Thankfully, this clown panic may be close to over, Radford told People magazine.

“I would say by mid-November, it will have essentially tapered off, there may be one or two more people arrested for pranks, and it’ll fade away and (be), ‘Hey remember that weird fall in 2016 when the clown panic happened?’ ” he said.