Creepy Clown Crackdown? Police Charging People with False Reporting as 'Sightings' Spread
There have been multiple reports of sightings of creepy clowns across the Southeast – several of them false, authorities in multiple states are alleging.
In two recent cases in Georgia and North Carolina, three people have been accused of falsely reporting clown sightings and now face misdemeanor charges, PEOPLE confirms.
David Wayne Armstrong, 24, was arrested on Sept. 9 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, after police allege he lied about seeing a clown knock on his window before he chased it into the woods, according to an incident report obtained by PEOPLE. Police allege Armstrong later admitted he lied.
In Troup County, Georgia, on Sept. 14, Brandon Moody, 26, and 27-year-old Rebecca Moody were arrested after allegedly falsely reporting that they saw clowns in the area, the sheriff’s office said. Both Moodys were charged with obstruction and unlawful conduct during a 911 call.
It was not immediately clear if the Moodys had entered pleas to the charges or retained attorneys, though the typical punishment for such misdemeanors is a fine.
Armstrong tells PEOPLE he has not entered a plea and says, “I really do wish I could take that night back.”
But he says he had a personal health crisis and panic attack that day and was acting irrationally. He says he is due back in court in November.
“I want the real truth out there,” Armstrong says. “I am tired of getting all these evil looks.”
(PEOPLE was not immediately able to reach local police in his case or Brandon or Rebecca Moody for comment.)
In a third, more serious case, police in LaGrange, Georgia, said Friday they had warrants out for four people on charges of terroristic threats and disrupting public schools after the suspects allegedly made Facebook threats on Sept. 12.
The suspects allegedly said they would attack three LaGrange schools dressed as “creepy clowns,” police said, further noting the “significant resources” they spent in the investigation
In a similar case, in Alabama, police have reportedly arrested one woman for alleged terroristic threats after a social media account called “Flomo Klown,” with profile photos of a clown, allegedly threatened students in Flomaton, Alabama, triggering a school lockdown.
Three juveniles were arrested with the woman, 22-year-old Makayla Smith, according to reports. None of the suspects are connected to Flomaton schools, authorities said, according to AL.com.
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It’s unclear what charges the juveniles face while Smith faces one charge of making a terroristic threat, according to AL.com and Atmore News.
Her bond was set at $200,000 at a Monday bond hearing, according to AL.com. She did not have an attorney at that hearing and it’s unclear if she has entered a plea. (PEOPLE was not immediately able to reach local police, court officials or Smith for comment.)
Widespread Clown Reports: ‘This Is Not Funny’
The string of arrests this month comes after weeks of spreading clown sightings – first in Greenville, South Carolina, in late August, after which sightings were reported in Greensboro, North Carolina, and then Georgia, Maryland and Kentucky.
In one case, in Greenville, children told local deputies that clowns had approached them behind their apartment complex and tried to lure them into the woods with money.
While multiple people in different cities, including children, have reported the sightings to authorities, law enforcement officials have told PEOPLE they’ve been repeatedly unable to locate the menacing individuals or evidence of a crime.
In Winston-Salem, for example, police said earlier this month they were unable to substantiate any of the local sightings and even debunked a report of clowns trying to lure kids into the woods after reviewing surveillance footage.
Still, authorities acknowledge the stress and fear generated by such behavior, prank or not, and have discouraged “copycat behavior.”
One viral Facebook video last week, showing a clown “sighting,” was later revealed to be a prank, while the Maryland reports, from four schoolchildren, were found false after the kids admitted they made it up, according to the Washington Post.
“If this is a hoax or publicity stunt it is not funny,” Greensboro police spokeswoman Susan Danielsen previously told PEOPLE. “It is alarming to the public and a drain on police resources. We just don’t know at this point, because we haven’t had the chance to interview any clowns.”