US dad charged after scaring daughter with clown mask

A scary clown mask on sale at a party costume store in Virginia. Last year, a series of creepy clown sightings were reported in more than a dozen US states, forcing police and schools to scramble to contain spreading jitters.
A scary clown mask on sale at a party costume store in Virginia. Last year, a series of creepy clown sightings were reported in more than a dozen US states, forcing police and schools to scramble to contain spreading jitters.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

YOUNGSTOWN (Ohio) • A man who tried to discipline his six-year-old daughter by chasing her around in a clown mask has been charged after the girl ran screaming to a stranger's apartment - prompting that neighbour to fire a gunshot into the air.

The incident occurred last Saturday evening when Vernon Barrett Jr, 25, donned a clown mask and began chasing his daughter outside their apartment.

He later told police it was supposed to be a prank - a way to get the child to behave without resorting to spanking.

The frightened child ran first to a female stranger's car nearby, jumped inside and said she was being chased by a clown, police said.

That woman later told police that the man wearing the clown mask had pulled the child out of her car. The woman called 911.

In the time it took officers to arrive, the child ran into the adjacent apartment of 48-year-old Dion Santiago, declared she was scared and asked whether she could stay there because a clown was chasing her, according to police.

Santiago "grabbed his firearm and fired a shot out of his window", said the police report.

When officers reached the scene, Santiago and Barrett were yelling at each other - the former still standing at his window and the latter still wearing a clown mask - while the girl remained too afraid to come out, police said.

Barrett was charged with child endangerment and inducing panic, while Santiago was charged with using weapons while intoxicated.

Barrett told officers that his daughter's mother was in prison for child endangerment after stepping on the girl and breaking several of her ribs, according to police.

Santiago has defended his actions by explaining that his son was nervous at seeing a man with a clown mask, following coverage in the news of creepy clown sightings across America last year.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'US dad charged after scaring daughter with clown mask'. Print Edition | Subscribe