Suspect in Austin ISD clown threats says it was just a joke

Akins High student Noah Hollingsworth, 17, has been charged in connection to the "clown threats."

AUSTIN - The Akins High student charged in connection to "clown threats" against area schools told KVUE that the threats were only intended as a joke.

Noah Hollingsworth, 17, was charged with misdemeanor terroristic threat, AISD Police Chief Eric Mendez said in a Wednesday afternoon briefing. Hollingsworth turned himself in to the Travis County Jail shortly before 2 p.m., Mendez added.

"These are copycat situations. Not one person is responsible for all the threats. We believe that one person may have started this trend of making these clown posts," said Mendez.

Mendez said officers spoke with Hollingsworth and did confess to creating an account - "arnietheclown" that generated the threats.

"If you're out there and think that you want to participate in this because it's funny, think again. because if it was your child attending a school, and your child felt threatened because of these posts, how would you feel?" said Mendez.

Hollingsworth told KVUE on Thursday that the Twitter account he created was intended only as a joke among a small group of friends. He said he never intended for his posts to spread or cause fear in others or lead law enforcement action.

"It was just a joke among my friends," Hollingsworth said. "I'm just trying to not have it on my permanent record so it's not a part of my life."

His aunt, Amanda Johnson, with whom Hollingsworth lives, said, "I don't want to see his life changed. He's sorry."

The threats against Austin ISD schools are part of a larger trend of "clown threats" against schools across the country. Mendez said it's important law enforcement stay up-to-date on social media trends for cases like these.

"People have a tendency or want to for whatever reason make fake profiles, fake posts, and it just causes that fear and that panic. And so we as investigators and police officers, we have to be knowledgeable about social technology to be able to use it in a way that we can actively investigate these cases," he added.

Police believe Hollingsworth is only responsible for the threatening messages directed at Akins High School. Mendez issued a warning to others pretending to be clowns - and attempting to threaten people online.

"We will continue to investigate the rest of the posts and if we have probably cause that you committed an offense by making those social media posts, we will arrest you for that offense depending on the elements of the offense," said Mendez.

The Twitter account used to post the messages has been disabled. A probable cause affidavit lists a sampling of some of the tweets, including one which read "I see a lot of victims," followed by two knife emojis. Another stated "I am back AKINS get ready". The posts also included pictures taken from inside Akins High School.


(© 2016 KVUE)


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