Clown threats reach Waco

After hearing a report that a clown was sighted at Pennsylvania State University, students started rushing towards Penn State’s Old Main lawn in search of the clown on Monday. Photo credit: Associated Press

By McKenna Middleton | Page One Editor

Waco is the latest in a long list of towns around the country to report threats of “creepy clowns.”

Waco ISD received death threats against two local high school campuses via social media on Sept. 29. A 14-year-old Waco High School freshman confessed to creating a fake Facebook account to post the threat as a joke after being taken into custody for questioning on Wednesday afternoon, said Bruce Gietzen, Waco ISD director of communications, in a Facebook statement Wednesday.

“All along, we did not think the threat was a credible threat. We did have a few parents take their kids out of school that day,” Gietzen told the Lariat. “The well-being of our students and staff is our number one concern. We have security in place, and we take every threat seriously. We want to make every campus safe for our employees and students. We will use every means necessary to alert parents if threats are credible.”

According to Waco ISD Police Chief Ken Boatman, the student was charged with making a terrorist threat. Boatman also said both the student and his mother are cooperating with officers.

“I am so proud of the Waco ISD police force for finding the person who caused such a disruption last Friday,” Waco ISD superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain said in Wednesday’s Facebook statement. “I am grateful to District Attorney Abel Reyna’s office for providing subpoenas and to Facebook quickly responding to those legal requests to help determine the identity of that young man.”

While there have been dozens of similar “creepy clown” threats made around the country, most of these have turned out to be online pranks.

Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, Waco Police Department spokesperson, declined to comment, expressing belief that the “creepy clowns” situation is a hoax and a “non-issue.”

The first instance of creepy clown sightings originated in late August in Greenville County, S.C., with reports of clowns luring children into the woods by offering them money and lurking around town to scare residents, according to the New York Times. Since then, reports have popped up around the nation in towns and on college campuses.

“In recent weeks, steady police work has turned the news around, with 12 people facing charges of making false reports or threats, or chasing people,” reported the New York Times. “Other cases seem attributable to children with overactive imaginations, teenagers pulling pranks and others with their own reasons for adding to the hysteria. At least one death has been linked to a clown hoax.”

Rumors of residents catching a glimpse of creepy clowns around Waco have circulated social media, but they have yet to be confirmed.

“We take every threat against our schools and students very seriously, and even though we have no indication that this one was credible, our officers went on alert status and increased presence and patrols today at [University High School and Waco High School] and in nearby areas,” Gietzen wrote in a Sept. 30 Facebook statement in response to the inital threat. “This is a prime example of the power of social media, and that power is not always used in a good way and can create fear and uncertainty.”