Man wearing clown mask arrested on outstanding warrant at Liberty Price Chopper

Posted at 1:55 PM, Oct 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-10 00:28:39-04

A man wearing a clown mask at the Liberty Price Chopper and surrounding area was arrested Saturday night on an outstanding warrant.

Police were called to the area near 896 S. 291 Highway shortly after 8:30 p.m. Saturday to investigate a suspicious man wearing a clown mask.

Two 911 calls indicated a clown was driving a gray Ford Fusion in the Price Chopper parking lot, sometimes getting out of his car and scaring people.

Officers stopped Gabriel Harding, 22 of Liberty, driving his car wearing a clown mask. He quickly removed the white rubber clown mask with a red nose and said he just bought it at a nearby Halloween store, and was waiting to meet his father.

Before he was stopped, Harding reportedly entered the Price Chopper wearing the mask, but took it off when management asked.

Several girls and a woman in the parking lot said they were frightened by his appearance and behavior.

He was not charged with any crime from wearing the mask, but was arrested on an outstanding stealing warrant from Kansas City with a $250 bond.

Man arrested after wearing clown mask explains his side of story

Gabriel Harding said he was looking for a laugh with family and friends while wearing a creepy clown mask before he was arrested by Liberty police Saturday night. However, he told 41 Action News Sunday that he never intended any harm.

The 22-year-old lives in Lawrence, but was with his family at Spirit Halloween in Liberty Saturday night. Harding says his dad bought him the clown mask before taking a trip to Halloween Haunt at World’s Of Fun.

“I put it on and we’re laughing. It was family. I wasn’t alone. It was me, my father, my sister and her friend.”

Harding said they made a stop across the street at Price Chopper after leaving the Halloween store. He said he kept his mask on.

“I wasn’t posing a threat to anybody. Never had intentions of it. Never would. Ever,” he said.

While wearing the mask, Harding claims laughs were shared with customers and employees once they entered Price Chopper. However, it was in his car on the way out minutes later when Harding was pulled over by police in the parking lot.

At least two 911 calls were made, resulting in the arrival of the police. Although Harding wasn’t arrested for wearing the mask, he was arrested due to an outstanding warrant. Harding said it was from a shoplifting incident as a minor he thought was already taken care of.

“As far as I was concerned it was over with. So, last four years I’ve had a warrant out and didn’t even know it,” said Harding.

The fear of ‘creepy clowns’ continues to sweep the nation. Two women wearing clown masks were arrested in Michigan this week after threatening to kill two teenage girls. And just last week, St. Joseph students received strange messages from social media accounts disguised as clowns.

Harding is taking the new-found wide-spread public fear into consideration from now on.

“I can’t wear this [clown mask] in public. That’s about it,” he said.

Clay County Sheriff public information officer, Will Akin, sent the following statement to 41 Action News regarding creepy clown masks.

“If you are going to use a clown theme for Halloween, consider waiting until the 31st or choose specific times and/or places regarding when to dress up, i.e, Halloween parties and special events. Given the current circumstances surrounding the clown issue, please be selective on when and how you use the clown theme. We want everyone to enjoy the Halloween season safely.”



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