Arrest made in 'creepy clown' threat to Pasco school
NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - The Pasco County Sheriff's Office makes an arrest after someone posts an online threat to kill students at a middle school using an image of a clown. That suspect is just 12-years-old.
It's a bizarre craze sweeping the nation - people dressed as creepy clowns who seem interested in spreading fear , and sometimes crossing into illegal activity.
"They think it's funny. I think it's ridiculous," said William Isgett, a parent of four children.
"They're supposed to be happy, not like, all scary," said Bella Miller, a young girl.
Threats are spreading through nearly every community and school district in the country, but the Pasco County Sheriff's Office is making it very clear - deputies aren't laughing.
"There was going to be zero tolerance," said Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Nocco said his office started getting calls after someone posted on the music.ly app: "I am going to kill kids at SEVEN SPRINGS MIDDLE SCHOOL on Friday the 7th of October 2016 GET READY 6th graders for your worst day and your last!!"
The profile name was "Clowing_Around" and included a picture of a sinister looking clown.
"Numerous parents were calling all day long. The anxiety was unbelievable," Nocco said. "Everybody was working this case."
The sheriff's office sent extra patrols to Seven Springs while its Cyber Crimes Unit tracked the post to a 12-year-old boy. Deputies caught up with him at school Tuesday afternoon. When they asked him why he did it, he told them he thought it would be funny.
"You threaten one of our schools, you threaten people in our community, that line in the sand is drawn," Nocco said. "To think it's funny. How many times do we have to stand here and tell people this is not a joke?"
The charge is no joke, either. The boy, who's not being named because of his age, is facing a second degree felony for writing threats to kill.
"You write, 'hello, I am going to kill kids at Seven Springs Middle School.' You are going to be charged with a second degree felony," said Nocco.
Seven Springs Middle School Principal Dr. Christopher Dunning said, "We made it very clear that there was nothing funny about threatening violence against the school or our students. I am asking parents to stress to their students that it is never funny to make threats. In fact, a new terroristic threats law that went into effect on October first makes it a felony to threaten a school shooting. Please also tell your students not to share social media threats with friends, but to notify law enforcement any time they see one.."
Though similar, the law he mentioned, Florida 836.10 was not applied in this case since the threat was written and did not specifically mention shooting.
Parents like Isgett agreed the charge fits the crime.
"Definitely. If not, they will think it's fun and games and it will get worse."
Others felt a felony was a little harsh.
"I don't think it's the right punishment, but it's definitely something parents needs to talk to them about," said mother Sheila Miller.
It's a warning to any potential copycats. Wearing a clown costume is not a crime, but combine it with violent threats, and deputies will give you a new costume to wear: a jail jumpsuit.