Update: Greeley Police investigate clown threats targeting schools
September 27, 2016
The Greeley Police Department is investigating a series of threats to students and others, some involving fake Facebook pages with images of clowns.
Greeley Police began receiving calls Monday afternoon regarding a claim that shootings would be carried out near Island Grove Regional Park, 501 N. 14th Ave., on Halloween night, according to a release from the police department.
From there, the threat evolved into numerous posts into what police call "an almost viral event, deviating from the original claim to several other claims of shootings at schools by clowns, and more," according to the release.
Threats also involved Northridge High School and Franklin Middle School, and police say they have traced the original threat to a 15-year-old who forwarded a message received on Facebook.
There is some indication the threats may have come from students, Greeley-Evans School District 6 spokeswoman Theresa Myers said, although that has not yet been confirmed.
Northridge parent Julie Campbell Reed said her son, who she preferred not to name, received a message last night, appearing to be from a clown named "Sparkles."
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"Sparkles dont like u bye," one of the messages read.
Another fake Facebook profile, this time for a clown named Clowny Clock, declared "clowns are coming," and threatened a "purge" at 11 p.m. Halloween night in Greeley. The "purge" reference relates to a series of movies by the same name in which all crime is legal for one night, and people — many in costumes — go about killing others.
Creepy clowns are nothing new, either, as sightings have been reported across the country in the past few years. Most simply seek to scare people, but there have been threats against schools nationally from people posing as clowns.
In Greenville, S.C., clowns have attempted to lure children into the woods. In Alabama, seven people who dressed as clowns face felony charges for making terroristic threats, according to a Weld County District Attorney news release.
"I know the clowns have been popping up in states all over, and they're not hurting anyone," Reed said. "But it definitely crosses the line when they're targeting children and messaging them on social media."
Police have told Reed and District 6 officials that they don't believe the threats are credible, but patrols have been increased around schools, particularly at Northridge High School and Franklin Middle School.
Reed kept her son home from school today because of the threats. About half of students at both Northridge and Franklin aren't in school today, Myers said. Attendance is down, generally, across the district.
The Weld District Attorney release was heavy on puns, but made the overall point that clowns are no laughing matter.
"Parents, please talk to your teenagers about this problem," District Attorney Michael Rourke said in the release. "They must realize this isn't a harmless joke."
If people are caught making a threat to schools, they could be charged with interference with staff, faculty or students of educational institutions, a crime punishable by up to 18 months in jail, according to the release.
"Then we'll see who is laughing," according to the release.
District 6 officials have sent two emails to parents and have made numerous Facebook posts related to the threats, Myers said. Officials have kept staff informed, and are encouraging staff to be extra vigilant today, Myers said.
Elementary and middle school doors will remain locked throughout the day, as is common practice.
This story may be updated.