(BOARDMAN TOWNSHIP, Ohio) — An Ohio dad’s apparent effort to “scare” his 6-year-old daughter with a clown mask went awry this weekend after he chased the girl into a stranger’s apartment, prompting the man to open fire in the direction of her father outside in an attempt to protect her.
Boardman Township, Ohio police responded to the scene at just after 10 p.m. on Saturday, where they found Vernon Barrett Jr., 25, standing outside of 48-year-old Dion Santiago’s home, according to a police report.
Barrett, the girl’s father, had been struggling to discipline his daughter after her mother was sentenced to four years in prison for child endangering after she had broken “several of [the 6-year-old’s] ribs and stepped on her,” according to the police report.
Barrett, the police report states, told officials that he “decided to use the clown mask into scaring her to behave” and that this was simply a “prank” that started from their apartment.
But Santiago’s 22-year-old son, Dion Santiago Jr., told ABC News the girl seemed to be in dire need of help.
“We absolutely were protecting her,” Dion Santiago Jr. said. “She fell into our laps and was running for her life. It was completely unexpected but what else were we to do?”
While fleeing her father, Barrett’s daughter first jumped into a female driver’s car, “screaming she was being chased by a clown,” the police report states. Barrett, wearing the clown mask, then allegedly pulled his daughter out of the car, but she managed to break free and ran toward Santiago’s apartment. Meanwhile, the woman called 911.
The girl opened Santiago’s “unlocked door” and asked Santiago and his family “if she could stay with them because a clown was chasing her,” according to the police report.
Santiago turned off the lights of the home and “looked out his apartment window and observed Barrett standing outside of the building with a clown mask on,” the police report states. Santiago, who later admitted to police that “he had a few beers” while watching TV, then “grabbed his firearm and fired a shot out of his window,” the police report states.
Santiago later told police that “he was frightened” by the 6-year-old girl entering his home “without permission,” adding that clowns have been chronicled on the news as “chasing people” and that he was trying to protect his son, daughter and his son’s girlfriend, who were in the apartment with him, from harm. He told police he only pointed the firearm “into the yard of the building next door” and that he “never aimed it at Barrett,” according to the police report.
Barrett was charged with inducing panic and child endangering, while Dion Santiago was charged using weapons while intoxicated, according to the police report.
Both men have been released pending court appearances at a later date, the police report states. It’s unclear whether they have obtained lawyers. Dion Santiago Jr. said his father is supposed to be in court this week and doesn’t have an attorney yet.
Boardman Township Police Det. Sgt. Chuck Hillman told ABC News that the town just south of Youngstown has had its share of clown sightings and said he hopes this incident is an anomaly.
“As with a lot of areas in the country, we have had a lot of clown sighting incidents,” he said. “This is the first time anything like this has happened recently.”
He added: “Hopefully it doesn’t restart that drama again.”
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