LAGRANGE, Ga. – LaGrange police are not clowning around.
Lt. Dale Strickland told WXIA police arrested four teens on Friday for creating a fake Facebook page, where they made threats to dress like a creepy clown and abduct children with a white van. Last week, police allege, the teens made the threats against students at Callaway Elementary, Franklin Forest Elementary, Callaway Middle School, Troup High School and Callaway High School.
Police charged Steven Goddard Jr., 18, Zaria Dallas, 18, and Tristian Bonner, 17, with making terroristic threats. Goddard and Dallas are from Georgia, while Bonner is from Alabama. Police charged an unnamed 16-year-old with both making terroristic threats and disrupting public schools, according to the news site.
“We have received numerous Facebook messages about the possible criminal activity involving individuals dressed as clowns. On Monday, September 12, 2016, LaGrange Police began an investigation into threats made by several individuals via Facebook to commit violent crimes at three different schools in LaGrange,” the department posted to its Facebook page.
“The suspects indicated that they would be dressed as ‘creepy clowns’ and would be driving a white van. After the posts were made and shared thousands of times officers with the department responded to numerous calls of ‘creepy clowns’ driving in different areas of the city. There were no individuals located and several of the calls were believed to be false,” it continued.
“Significant resources were expended to address concerns of parents and students of the schools named in the threats by both law enforcement and school officials throughout the week.”
The arrests are only the latest in what seems to be an epidemic of “creepy clown” sightings across the U.S., especially in the southeast.
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Similar threats made by a Facebook user called “Flomo Clown” triggered a lockdown at two Alabama schools last week, Escambia County High School and Flomation High School, WKRG reports.
The threat that “it’s going down tonight” accompanied by crying and pistol emojis convinced police to investigate. Despite online reports that the “Flomo Clown” was roaming school grounds, police officials were unable to confirm an actual sighting.
And last Tuesday, a Macon, Georgia mother called 911 when her children were chased from a bus stop by creepy clowns, according to the Telegraph of Macon.
Other reports occurred in McDuffie County and Augusta, Georgia, and followed a series of similar stunts in at least six states, including North and South Carolina, Alabama, Ohio, California, and Wisconsin.
In several cases the clowns lurked in the woods and approached children, attempting to lure them with candy or money, BBC reports.
Law enforcement officials in numerous states have issued warnings about the sightings and solicited information from the public.
“The clowning around needs to stop,” Greenville, South Carolina police chief Ken Miller said in early September. “It’s illegal, it’s dangerous, it’s inappropriate, it’s creating a community concern.”