Vernon Barrett, Jr., 25, of Broadman, OH, pleaded not guilty today to charges of inducing panic and child endangerment. The charges stem from Barrett’s arrest on Sunday, WKBN reported. Barrett’s idea for disciplining his 6-year-old daughter with a clown mask, rather than spanking, was amiss.

The father was trying to scare his daughter into behaving, but what he didn’t count on was her climbing into a stranger’s car or running into a neighbor’s apartment to flee the clown chasing her, according to ABC News. The neighbor, Deon Santiago, ended up grabbing his gun and firing it out his window, according to Broadman police.

Little girl fleeing clown-masked father runs to strangers for help

Based on a report by Broadman police, the incident that started in Barrett’s apartment led to the girl fleeing and initially climbing into a woman’s car. The child began screaming to the female driver that a clown was chasing her, ABC noted. Still wearing the clown mask, Barrett is alleged to have pulled his daughter out of the car. She got away from him and ran to a neighbor’s apartment while the female driver called 911.

The girl ran to Dion Santiago’s apartment, found the door unlocked and went inside. She, then, told Santiago and his family that a clown was after her. She asked whether she could stay. After turning off lights in his home, the elder Santiago saw the masked clown standing outside, the police report stated.

Santiago fired his gun out the window, wanting to protect the little girl. Santiago’s 22-year-old son, also named Dion, said his family “absolutely thought” they were protecting the 6-year-old, ABC relayed. “She fell into our laps and was running for her life,” he said.

Neighbor fires gun to protect girl from clown

Officers responded to the 911 call shortly after 10 PM on Saturday.

Barrett was outside of Santiago’s home. The police report said that Barrett used the clown mask to scare his daughter into behaving and that he has been having a difficult time trying to discipline his daughter. He did not want to resort to spanking his child following behavior problems at school and at home. Her mother, according to the police and ABC, is serving a four-year prison sentence for child endangerment after she reportedly stepped on her daughter and broke several of the girl’s ribs.

While Barret was arrested and charged with inducing panic and child endangerment, Santiago was charged as a result of firing his gun while he was allegedly intoxicated, the police report and ABC noted. Santiago reportedly told police that he drank a few beers while he was watching TV and that he was frightened when the little girl entered his apartment without permission. Police also stated that Santiago said his daughter, son, and his son’s girlfriend were in his apartment at the time and he was trying to protect them, as well.

Police hope clown mask discipline gone wrong won’t evoke clown sightings

Santiago mentioned to police that the news has reported clowns chasing people. He said that he did not aim the gun at Barrett, but pointed the gun into the yard next-door to the apartment building.

Detective Sergeant Chuck Hillman, Boardman Township Police Department, stated to ABC that the town has had clown sightings. Hillman said that he is hopeful that the incident involving Barrett is “an anomaly.”

“This is the first time anything like this has happened recently,” Hillman told ABC. “Hopefully it doesn’t restart that drama again.” Santiago’s court appearance is scheduled for Thursday. Barrett’s next court date is slated for October 24.

Clowns are ‘creepy’ to children, says psychologist

Eileen Kennedy-Moore is a psychologist. Kennedy-Moore, who has written several books on parenting and child development, explained to the National Post that children (the little girl's) age are on shaky ground with respect to being able to differentiate fantasy from reality.

“Especially when we’re really frightened, she said, “we’re not able to think clearly.”

Kennedy-Moore additionally told the Post that clowns may be particularly “creepy” to children “because the faces don’t move and the features are kind of exaggerated.” The fact that a clown was chasing the little girl probably escalated the situation, she said.

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