PORTLAND, Tenn. (WKRN) — Portland police have issued four citations in connection to a clown photo circulating on Facebook.
The photo began circulating several days ago and police say it intended to show clowns in the area of Portland High School, which caused panic in the community.
The fear of clowns is so intense, just this morning, someone called police to report a clown riding a bicycle.
It turned out to be a man wearing a blinking reflective safety vest.
“We realize it is just a prank, but social media has driven it to such a point that it’s irresponsible and someone is going to get hurt,” said Chief Anthony Heavner.
Thechief said in two days the photo reached 60,000 people, making them nervous and prompting police to take action
“Past several weeks here in Portland we have been inundated with reports of clowns terrorizing the community,” said Heavner.
Police were forced to respond to dozens of nuisance calls.
“Clowns in Richland Park, I have had to dispatch officers. Hearing clown music, which turned out to be an ice cream truck over on Strawberry Street,” said Heavner.
Portland police traced the photo to its source and identified the two men shown hiding in the dark while wearing clown masks.
Authorities said the men were playing a prank on one of their friends and posted the picture to the internet. It soon spread and that’s when the fear intensified.
Nicholas Douglas, 20, Mark Sloan, 24, were cited in Portland City Court for violating a city ordinance that prevents the wearing of a mask in public to disguise one’s identity.
Two others, Matthew Sloan, 26, and Candice Sloan, 22, were cited as accessories under the same ordinance.
“I would laugh about it; to me it is a joke,” said Beverly Shrum, the grandmother of Candice Sloan. “They weren’t out to hurt nobody. They were playing a practical joke.”
She said it was simply a brother playing a practical joke on another brother.
“There’s more in Portland to worry about than that, there’s big drug problem, a big stealing problem,” she said.
“I do have more to do, but if a call comes in, we answer that call for service,” said Chief Heavner.
He said he wanted to send a message to citizens that they have to be responsible for their actions, even if it was a joke.
Police are also encouraging people to avoid sharing photos and stories on social media if they are not able to “verify the veracity of them.”