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Clown craze creeps out Crosby

An apparent clown-related incident Tuesday led the Crosby-Ironton School District to increase law enforcement presence as a precautionary measure. Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland sent parents a letter Wednesday detailing the incident, which invol...

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Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland sent parents a letter Wednesday detailing the incident, which involved someone anonymously sending apparently threatening messages through Facebook to a student under a "Clown" pseudonym. BrainerdDispatch.com Illustration

An apparent clown-related incident Tuesday led the Crosby-Ironton School District to increase law enforcement presence as a precautionary measure.

Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland sent parents a letter Wednesday detailing the incident, which involved someone anonymously sending apparently threatening messages through Facebook to a student under a "Clown" pseudonym.

Crosby Police Chief Kim Coughlin said the incident is likely related to the so-called clown craze trending nationally, including a number of instances of people charged with various crimes after posing as clowns.

"If I were to take a guess I would say of course (the call was related)," Coughlin said. "There was none before."

According to Skjeveland's letter, a high school student approached Principal Jim Christenson, detailing communications with the anonymous "Clown" the previous night. After an initial message from the person, the student replied, stating they wished to no longer receive messages. "Clown" allegedly replied, "You won't be laughing when I come to Crosby school."

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Christenson contacted Crosby police regarding the threatening message. Skjeveland stated in his letter a number of tips came to the district throughout the day about the identity of "Clown." Coughlin said a 19-year-old Brainerd man was determined to be the anonymous Facebook user. The man knew the person he was messaging, she said, and told police it was a joke. Nevertheless, Coughlin said she chose to issue the man a citation for disorderly conduct.

"Because of the numerous calls and how upsetting it was to people, it goes under the disorderly conduct statute," Coughlin said. "I didn't feel that he was a threat, and he's not. He thought it was a funny joke at the time and is apologetic for it. But I did issue a citation."

Skjeveland said his letter was an effort to keep parents informed, although ultimately it was determined the threat was not serious.

"The students at Crosby-Ironton High School were never in danger today," Skjeveland wrote.

As a precautionary measure, however, Skjeveland said law enforcement would have an increased presence at the school through the remainder of the week. Coughlin said this included a lockdown drill Thursday, which she said was already scheduled, and will include police officers in attendance at the Crosby-Ironton Rangers homecoming football game tonight.

This incident was not the only clown-related call the police department received recently, Coughlin said. Two other calls related to anonymous "Clown" Facebook messages came in, she said, but appear to be unrelated to the one involving Crosby-Ironton schools. She said in those situations, it is unknown where the messages originated from, but did not appear to be from someone local.

The main lesson for people, Coughlin said, was to use caution on social media.

"Do not friend people on your Facebook page who you do not know," she said. "I would recommend privatizing your Facebook page as well, and a lot of people don't do that. That way it's not accessible except for the people you want it accessible to."

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Coughlin said there are online tutorials for how to make a Facebook profile less public, and the police department could also provide assistance with safeguarding information. Visit time.com/4166749/facebook-privacy-settings-guide/ for six steps to make a Facebook profile more private.

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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