No ‘clown issue’ in Rifle
After one “vastly inaccurate” report to law enforcement and a separate incident involving escalated rumors at a local high school, the Rifle Police Department Tuesday issued its reassurance Tuesday that, as has been the case in many similar instances across the country, there is no danger stemming from mischief-making clowns.
“There’s no clown issue here in the city of Rifle,” Sam Stewart, Rifle’s interim police chief, said Tuesday.
The department took to Facebook earlier in the day to inform the community of two recent clown-related reports that turned out to be false alarms. In doing so the department urged residents to avoid giving in to what police said “amounts to a fabricated and typically baseless panic.”
One particular incident Monday was reported to police as a man exiting a vehicle wearing a clown mask. The call turned out to be “vastly inaccurate,” according to police.
“An individual had a clown mask affixed to their passenger seat headrest, and had for several years. No one had even been wearing the mask that evening.”
According to the department’s Facebook post, pictures of the vehicle owner and the vehicle started surfacing on Facebook, which led to threats against the owner.
The other incident cited by police involved a Rifle High School student who was contacted by an unknown person via Facebook. Through an investigation last Friday, Stewart said police were able to quickly determine there was no actual threat.
The student accepted a friend request from the unknown person on Facebook, according to Theresa Hamilton, director of districtwide services for Garfield School District Re-2.
“And through the online conversation, mis-perceptions occurred and rumors escalated via social media into others sharing information about clowns,” Hamilton wrote in an email.
She echoed the police in saying that, although the action was ill-advised, it posed no threat to Rifle High students or staff.
“Garfield Re-2 School District takes the safety of its students, staff, schools and community very seriously. Had there been any indication that these rumors had any credibility, we would have alerted the Garfield Re-2 community.”
“There were no threats to the community or anything,” Stewart said while clarifying that the department’s Facebook post was made in light of incidents elsewhere.
The clown craze has sprung up across the country in recent months, as reported by numerous media outlets. Some instances involve reported sightings, while others involve threats made against area schools or individuals.
In Greeley, police detained a 15-year-old student last week for a Facebook post claiming there would be a shooting at Northridge High School, The Greeley Tribune reported. In a separate incident, Greeley police detained an 11-year-old middle school student who brought a BB gun to school and reportedly told other students he would wear “clown gloves” when he used the weapon.
The threat of a school shooting was deemed a hoax, however, and the Tribune reported both students will face criminal charges.
Elsewhere in Garfield County, officials with both the sheriff’s office and Glenwood Springs Police Department said they have not received any clown-related reports.
Garfield Re-2 on Tuesday sent out a message from Superintendent Brent Curtice regarding “scary clowns.”
“Please know that your child’s safety is our priority and our school and district administrators are carefully monitoring this situation,” the message stated.
In noting that social media is the primary vehicle for most of these rumors, the message from Re-2 suggested parents monitor their children’s social media accounts and help them understand how to use them properly.
The Rifle department noted that people should continue regular life and seriously evaluate the source of information regarding social media posts that would cause “you to take actions that you would not normally.”
If someone does see something suspicious they should call 911 for an emergency and 970-625-8095 for a non-emergency.
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Between Thursday and Saturday morning, local law enforcement arrested nine people accused of soliciting children for sex as part of a sting operation.