Sheriff believes most local clown sightings are hoaxes

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2016

As reported sightings of creepy clowns continue to make news across the Southeastern United States, Carter County has not been immune to the phenomenon.
So far, a total of four reports have been made to Carter County 911 regarding sightings of suspicious individuals dressed as clowns or wearing clown masks. All four of those incidents have taken place in the county. There have been no reported clown sightings within the city of Elizabethton.
The first clown sighting was reported on Sept. 3 around 11:45 p.m. In that case, a 911 caller reported she was on Highway 19E in Roan Mountain heading northbound when she saw a car flashing the lights. The woman said she pulled over and when the other car pulled up next to her she saw the driver was wearing a clown mask. The passenger was also wearing a mask but the caller could not tell what kind of mask it was.
Officers of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area but were not able to locate the car the woman described.
A second sighting was reported in Roan Mountain, this time on Sept. 14 around 3:15 p.m. on Heaton Hill Road. In that case, the caller said someone was dressed as a clown and holding a machete in a wooded area on the road. The caller said the clown had on a green wig and was wearing multi-colored striped pants and a red shirt with a skull on the back. The caller said the clown was just standing still and did not approach as the caller drove by. Once again officers responded to the area but did not locate any clown.
The third reported sighting happened in the Lynn Valley community. That incident happened on Sept. 18 shortly before 10 p.m. on Beryl Blevins Road. In that case, the caller told dispatchers she was out walking her dog when she saw a subject dressed in a clown suit. The woman said the clown took off running toward the wooded area at the end of Beryl Blevins Road. Officers searched the area but were not able to locate the suspect.
The fourth reported clown sighting happened on Stoney Creek in the Midway area. That incident happened Sept. 22 around 11 p.m. on Davis Hollow Road. The caller reported he saw a clown hiding in the bushes near an apartment complex and then the clown ran around the back of the building. Officers responded to the scene and searched by no suspect was located.
“I think most of it is hoaxes,” Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said. “I think they are mostly urban legends and urban legends will spread.”
While he feels most of the sightings are hoaxes, Lunceford said he would advise anyone who sees a person dressed up as a clown to not approach them.
While the sightings may have alarmed residents, Lunceford said a person appearing in public in a clown costume, mask or makeup is not “in and of itself a crime.”
“There would have to be something more to it, something to go with it,” Lunceford said. “Unless there is something suspicious with where the clown is sighted or there is some kind of criminal activity taking place it’s not a crime. Just a clown is not a crime.”
The sightings have become an issue statewide, which has prompted the Tennessee Department of Safety to issue an advisory to residents about clown sightings.
“Unfortunately we’ve had some incidents in Tennessee,” said Megan Buell, Communications Director for the Tennessee Department of Safety. “Whether or not these people have any intent to harm anyone they obviously have an agenda to scare the public.”
Buell noted there have been reports of clown sightings in different locations in Tennessee and pointed to the recent arrest of a subject in Kentucky related to the clown incidents. According to reports, a man was arrested in Middlesboro, Ky., after he was reportedly found lurking around an apartment complex while dressed as a clown.
Reports of clown sightings began occurring across the Southeast United States in recent weeks, beginning with reports in South Carolina that a clown had attempted to lure children in to the woods. Since that time sightings of clowns have been reported in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.
“I have children myself and as parents we need to be aware of what is going on,” Buell said, adding that is what prompted the advisory from the Department of Safety. “We just wanted to bring some attention to the issue to our public so they can be aware of what is happening.”
“It’s not to cause any kind of panic,” she added. “We need to make sure our public is aware of what is going on.”

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