Local clown reports received but also questioned

Authorities say public clowning is not a laughing matter

Reports of suspicious clowns – including one that stated a child was chased by a clown – have been received by authorities in Terrebonne Parish, and there have been rumors of clowns in Lafourche.

But so far sheriff’s offices in both parishes say they have not located any clowns, and have issued a double warning.

Masking is prohibited by state law in Louisiana except during Halloween and Mardi Gras, and can carry hefty penalties.

Suggestions of armed action against clowns sighted appearing on social media drew another kind of warning.

“We have seen several people commenting on social media that they would use deadly force against these individuals if found on their property, but you cannot legally shoot someone merely for trespassing in your yard, whether they are in costume or not,” said Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre who, in a joint statement with other officials, said “we ask that you contact law enforcement, and let us handle the situation.”

Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said that on Tuesday a report was received of “a juvenile being chased on Ziegler Drive while walking to the bus stop.”

“Deputies patrolled this area and were unable to locate the suspect,” Larpenter said. “This information was later posted on Facebook and shared which caused residents to be alarmed.  There were a few other complaints filed regarding someone wearing a clown mask in the Lisa Park Subdivision, Oakshire Subdivision, Chauvin and other areas.”

Larpenter echoed what other officials said, adding that “anyone who sees someone wearing a mask should not approach this person and contact us with the description immediately.”

Two complaints received by Terrebonne resulted in interviews of complainants by law enforcement. In one of those cases, the one emanating from Ziegler Drive, a child told a school resource officer that the clown had a black handgun. Another witness, from a different location, described what was seen as a “long black object” said Chief of Detectives Malcolm Wolfe.

In one case the clown was described as a person dressed all in black with a white face. 

In Lafourche Parish, Sheriff Webre, along with Thibodaux Police Chief Bryan Zeringue, Lockport Chief of Police Warren Vedros and Golden Meadow Chief of Police Reggie Pitre said no rumors of clowns in their jurisdictions were confirmed.

“Spooking your friends is one thing, but terrorizing a community is an act that will not be tolerated,” Pitre said. “I would like to encourage everyone to have a safe and enjoyable Halloween Season, but creeping around as an evil clown is not recommended unless you feel the need to be charged and/or arrested.”

The reports come in the midst of “creepy” or “evil-looking” clowns have been spotted lurking in various parts of the U.S. While many of the initial reports have been discredited, police believe people are copying the behavior from the initial viral news stories reporting such behavior. 

Lt. Brennan Matherne of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office notes that on Friday a 20-year-old Kentucky man was arrested for stalking around a town there. 

“Also, two schools in Alabama were put on lockdown last week after online threats involving clowns,” Matherne said. “Online rumors began circulating about a possible sighting in Lafourche Parish this week, but no sightings have been reported to law enforcement. Citizens are cautioned not to spread rumors on social media causing unnecessary fear for other residents.”

The reports have hit real clowns hard.

“It’s very frustrating for us,” said Pam Briant Moody of Wisconsin, president-elect of the World Clown Association. “If you put things in perspective, you could take a doctor and put her in a lab coat with a stethoscope around her neck and label people as insane killer doctors. These are people dressing up and pretending to be something they are not and that is what it is.”

Scary movies featuring clowns over the past few years have been giving clowns a bad name, Moody said. 

“It has hurt clowning,” said Moody, who primarily entertains children at school events. “Kids see that in the movies and they are not able to differentiate. I have only encountered one person in my life who had a true phobia of clowns.”

This video surveillance still from St. James Parish show two people in clown costumes. The matter is under investigation.