What to Know
- The creepy clown craze sweeping the nation has prompted responses from the highest levels of government, including the White House
- No one has been hurt, but many teenagers and young adults have been arrested over alleged threats and hoaxes
One of two New York teens arrested amid a wave of creepy clown sightings inciting fear and disruption across the nation now says he "regrets it a lot."
Angelo Rojas and Gabriel Garabito, both 18, were arrested Thursday for trespassing on school property at a high school in Yonkers after allegedly taking photos of themselves in clown suits at various district schools.
They told police they planned to post the photos later Thursday night along with some threats, authorities say.
But a remorseful Rojas told NBC 4 New York Friday, "I never should have done it."
He said he just wanted "a quick laugh" with his friend as the two drove around town, and figured they'd capitalize on the creepy clown craze taking over social media.
"It was on social media, all these clown scares going around. I was like, I've had a clown costume for a couple years. Perfect timing," said Rojas.
"It was never to scare anybody, it was just to take a quick picture in front of every school in Yonkers, then it just turned into something big," he added.
But parents and police don't find it funny. Cops say the pranks are putting a strain on resources, especially because they can't just dismiss the threats off the bat. Every one has to be vetted, according to Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardner.
"We take all threats seriously but especially threats involving the safety of our children," he said.
Other communities were dealing with similar clown-scare headaches, and school districts from Long Island to Westchester and New Jersey to Connecticut have been sending letters home to reassure parents of their children's safety. The Montclair school district in New Jersey even banned "clown-related costumes" ahead of Halloween and urged adults to talk to their children about the dangers of "copycat" behavior.
"Any threatening email or post on social media will be investigated by the police, and the person responsible risks legal consequences, regardless if the intent was harmless, a hoax, or copycat in nature," Interim Superintendent Ron Bolandi said.
Bolandi said children who dress up as clowns or anything resembling clowns at any school event, including Halloween, will be asked to change or sent home.
Gardner reiterated the point: "This is not a joke. If you engage in this type of activity, you're going to be held accountable for your actions."
Now Rojas said what seemed like a funny idea at first has now turned into a headache, and has this message for other teens thinking about it: "Don't do it. Just don't do it. Now I have to go to court."
Earlier this week, two New Jersey girls were arrested in separate alleged clown threat hoaxes, and another teenager was arrested in an alleged clown-mask drive that scared motorists on the road, police say. And a creepy clown chased a teenager out of a subway in Manhattan, menacing the boy with a kitchen knife. That clown has not been caught.