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Trio Of ‘Clowns’ Arrested in Belmont County

BELLAIRE — Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas said inducing panic and carrying concealed weapons are serious crimes, even when they are committed by people wearing clown costumes.

Deputies arrested three local men early Saturday morning after receiving reports of people in masks and wigs prowling a rural area and shining a laser-type light into passing vehicles. One caller told dispatchers they had seen someone with green hair and someone with red hair and a mask in the area of two cemeteries along County Road 214 near Bellaire. Another caller reported that someone in the same area shined a bright light into their windshield, nearly causing the complainant to lose control of their vehicle.

Upon apprehending the three men along the road, Sgt. Randy Stewart and Deputy Chad Kulpa discovered they were armed.

“We are not going to tolerate it,” Lucas said of the recent rash of reported threats and attacks involving clowns. “They will be arrested, and they can do their clowning around behind bars.”

Those arrested were:

∫ Eric Paul Geisel, 19, of Bellaire. Lucas said Geisel was charged with carrying a concealed weapon because he had a hatchet in his possession. According to the report, Geisel also was wearing a bandanna around his head or neck and told deputies he was doing so because the weather was cold. Lucas said the temperature at the time of the arrest was about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Geisel remained lodged at the Belmont County Jail on Saturday afternoon. His bond was set at $1,000.

∫ Greg Eugene Carter Jr., 19, of Valley Grove. Lucas said Carter also was charged with carrying a concealed weapon because he had a handgun in his possession. Lucas noted that Ohio law states a person must be 21 years old to obtain a concealed carry permit. Carter was released after posting $1,000 bond.

∫ Jessie D. Morris, 18, of Centerville. Lucas said Carter was charged with inducing panic because he had a green laser-type light in his possession that was believed to have been used to distract passing motorists. Morris was still being held at the jail Saturday afternoon. His bond also was set at $1,000.

Lucas said the trio had additional knives and weapons with them when they were arrested. All three cases will be handled in Belmont County Eastern Division Court.

The timing of the incident, about 1:50 a.m. Saturday, and the rural location of the subjects made them seem all the more suspicious to passersby and to law enforcement, according to Lucas.

“These boys were out with weapons,” Lucas said. “This was not a Halloween prank. Halloween isn’t even here yet. … My advice to teens and young people is do not go out at 2 or 3 in the morning carrying weapons.”

Lucas acknowledged that wearing a clown costume or any costume is not, itself, an illegal act. He said it is a violation of the law, however, if the costume is worn to create panic.

“If you are out in costume for a party or an event, that’s different,” he said.

Lucas said he believes the court will treat these cases very seriously because weapons were involved.

“What was the gun for? What was the hatchet for? These boys were doing nothing but looking for trouble, and they found it,” the sheriff said.

A threat of a clown attack on Ohio schools was posted on social media Friday, prompting local law enforcement to be on high alert. Some area schools went into lockdown as a precaution. An investigation determined the threat originated in Missouri. Clown sightings were also reported in Bellaire and Martins Ferry earlier last week, and a Shadyside resident said someone in a clown costume broke windows out of their home.

These incidents are among the latest in a series of frightening encounters involving clowns nationwide. According to The Associated Press, people in states including South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Georgia have reported scary or suspicious incidents with people dressed as clowns since August.

Two people were arrested and some schools were closed in the Cincinnati area Friday amid a rash of reported threats involving clowns against students in three suburban school districts.

A reported early Friday attack on a woman in Reading, Ohio, by a person dressed as a clown prompted Reading Community City School District officials to cancel classes for the day. A woman told Reading police she was smoking a cigarette on her porch when someone wearing a clown costume appeared and grabbed her by the throat. The person told her, “I should just kill you now” and “Some students and teachers would wish they were never born at the Jr. and Sr. High School today,” police said.

Also Friday, officials at a high school in Miami Township, north of Cincinnati, said a student was arrested and removed from campus for making a threat about clowns on social media.

The number of arrests in the Cincinnati area rose from two to seven by Saturday morning, as Montgomery police charged an additional five students with inciting panic Friday for allegedly suggesting a “Clown Clan” descend on their schools.

Another arrest also was made in Fairborn, Ohio. Police charged a 15-year-old boy with making terroristic threats, a felony, after he allegedly used a clown persona on social media to threaten death to Fairborn High School students.

A false report prompted a precautionary lockdown at a Dayton middle school Friday.

Sugarcreek police in Amish Country determined a girl’s social media post reporting a clown with a knife was false.

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