Social media posts and phoned-in threats continue to warn that "clowns" may show up at schools across Alabama to lure children to the woods. Two more local schools were closed earlier this week after a student reported to police a Facebook post saying that clowns may visit the Shades Valley High School campus. According to a call received at the Holy Family Cristo Rey High School in Ensley, a clown was coming to bring children to the woods. Police found nothing.
James Lewis, an Irondale police officer, said he spoke with the student who reported the social media posts, which have already been removed. Officer Lewis, quoted by CBS Miami, confirmed that the soft lockdown was only a precaution, and there was no disruption to the learning process.
According to Fox News, people reported similar incidents in North Carolina, Georgia, and other cities across the southwest. In some cases, children have reported clowns trying to lure them into remote wooded areas. In other instances, victims received messages from the so-called clowns with vulgar language.
Det. Sgt. Michael Mangina from the Irondale Police Department added they had additional forces patrolling the school campuses to monitor the situation. Mangina admitted that at first, it was not easy to take the issue seriously because it appeared to be a Facebook panic caused by a group of 15-year-olds. However, anytime someone suggests there could be planned attack on a school, the threat becomes real and the police take it seriously, continued Mangina:
"In today's climate, we're better safe than sorry."
Last week, the Flomaton Police Office received what they believed to be credible Facebook threats to students at the local high school. The police locked down the school for several hours, and 30 law enforcement officials made a sweep of the area trying to identify possible threats. The FBI worked closely with the law enforcement authorities from Florida and Alabama, and the Escambia County Sheriff, to identify social media accounts called "FLOMO KLOWN" and "Shoota Cllown."
Under Alabama Law, these threats may result in arrest for "Making a Terroristic Threat," which is a felony. According to the investigators, two juveniles and one adult were involved with the incident, writes Carol Robinson of Al.com. As the police reported, one of the adolescents residing in Florida was discovered to be involved. In a press release, The Escambia County Sheriff's Office said that 22-year-old Makayla Smith of Flomaton, Alabama, has been arrested for making a terroristic threat:
"This type of crime will not be tolerated in Escambia Co. Alabama and we will ask that all involved parties be punished to the full extent of the law."
As Chris Sommerfeldt of the New York Daily News wrote, the 22-year-old woman from Alabama was held on $200,000 bail for making credible threats against a local high school. Reportedly, she was using Facebook accounts featuring images and references to creepy clowns.
The bond hearing for Smith will take place next week at the Escambia County Courthouse in Brewton. According to the police, all of this is built upon scary clown-related stories widely circulating online, and especially in the south. The Auburn Police Department received numerous reports of people dressed up as clowns to scare the public:
"For your safety, we strongly encourage you to leave this job to Auburn Police. Please use good judgment and avoid wearing clown masks, as it could be perceived as a hazard or threat to others."