Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Pranksters: Nine Tips on Having a Law Enforcement-Free Halloween

Most people realize that Halloween pranks involving arson, kidnapping, and assault will get the police involved, but it’s surprising how grey for some the distinction between fun and felony can be. A look at some Halloween pranks gone wrong, and some advice on what sorts of activities to avoid.

Ashley Wyatt, left, with sister Tiffany.

Ashley Wyatt, left, with sister Tiffany.

1. No Hanging of Actual People

On October 27, 2009, Ashley Wyatt, 12, went outside to play with her sisters. The girls apparently decided to play a trick on someone that involved a fake hanging. Ashley tied the rope around her neck, and fell, killing herself.

2. Dummies are OK, but do not Mess With the Morning Commute

On October 31, 2012, two dummies, dressed in Halloween clothes and wearing masks, were strung up over a bridge on the 215 Freeway in Grand Terrace, California. According to CHP Officer Scott Riley, who took the dummies down, “It slowed down traffic quite a bit because of all the looky loos.” The freeway was backed up several miles. The dummies, a clown and a skeleton, were reportedly hanging over the traffic lanes, but not low enough to hit the cars. Even so, police started getting calls about the dummies at about 7:50 a.m., and, after finally locating them and taking them down, were more than ready to arrest the pranksters, whom they have not found…yet.

Hanged Obama effigy

Hanged Obama effigy

3. Be Discerning About Personalizing your Dummies

Also, since the Secret Service has never been known for their sense of humor, it’s probably not a good idea to hang a dummy that looks like the president, like Eddie Million of Moreno Valley, California did in 2012. He apparently hung an effigy of President Obama in front of his house from a noose. After neighbors expressed shock, and after a visit from the Secret Service, on October 30 Million took it down telling reporters, “This is getting all blown out of proportion. It’s down. It’s gone. We didn’t want to hurt the president.”

4. Shooting People is Out

A shooting prank went wrong in Columbus, Georgia, on October 27, 2012, when a 13 year old was shot with a pellet gun while waiting for his mother to pick him up from a Halloween Party. The teen was hit in the stomach, and the injury is so severe that doctors will not be able to remove the projectile without damaging the boy’s liver. Police are searching for the pranksters, who sped away in a small silver car.

5. Doesn’t Matter What Ammunition you Use

On October 27, Devlyin Jones and his friend were the butt of a prank when, standing outside their apartment they heard what sounded like a car backfiring, and turned to see a gun pointed at them from a car window. According to Jones, “Several shots pop, pop, pop. One hits me in the face, and I got hit in the side. It hit the house and the windows and they speed off. The projectile turned out to be a paintball, “It cut up my face a little bit, and I was bleeding and saw the blood, and it kind of scared me.” Said Jones. Though paintballs are used in games, shooting them at people without protective gear can be dangerous. Police are looking for the pranksters, who shot three others that night. According to Matt Baxter, of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, one report described the vehicle as an “older model maroonish red four door car with some black males in it.” If caught the suspects will be charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault, both are felonies.

6. Even Egging has its Risks

A prankster might assume that falling back on the more traditional Halloween projectile, the humble egg, would be safe. An Atlanta, Georgia, teen, however, was shot on October 31, 2011, after egging a stranger’s car. The car’s owner, reportedly a man, 17-18, left, came back with some friends, and shot the teen. According to police Maj. Keith Meadows, “It appears the victim in this case was standing at the intersection when the suspect approached him, produced a handgun, and discharged the weapon at least 10 times, striking the victim.” It was unclear exactly how many times the victim was hit, but it was clear that he didn’t survive.

The character Michael Myers from classic slasher movie Halloween.

The character Michael Myers from classic slasher movie Halloween.

7. When Staging a Fake Murder Try to Predict How Things Could Go Wrong

A couple in rural Galatia, Illinois, thought that it would be fun to give their kids a good scare with a trick for Halloween. On October 24, 2010, they staged a fake murder in their home. It is unclear exactly what the prank was, but suffice it to say that the children, ages 6 and 8 entered the house and thought someone had really killed their mother. They reportedly ran to the neighbor’s house before their parents could stop them. According to Sheriff Keith Brown, the neighbor called 911, “The 911 caller identified himself and indicated the neighbors’ children had come to the house and said there’d been a murder or their mother had been strangled by Michael Meyers. There are Meyers that live in this area, and obviously we take any 911 call seriously.” Sheriff’s deputies arrived to find that everyone was OK, and that it had all been a prank. No charges were filed, but there’s no telling how many years of counseling the family will need.

8. Leave the Animals Alone

In Richmond several citizens on their way to a Halloween fireworks show reported seeing a group of teens playing with firecrackers behind a local school. Fearing that the youths were lighting them too close to the school, the group of parents and trick-or-treaters approached the teens only to discover that they were using the fire crackers to blow up a bunny rabbit that they had brought in a sack. The Richmond News reported that Merle Vered, who witnessed the incident, said “I don’t want to be graphic, but there was a hole in its stomach.” It is not clear if police ever became involved, but Vered made an appeal to anyone in the community who knew the teens involved, to report them to police.

9. Don’t Even Joke About it

Most recently, in 2012, a reportedly phony threat sent out at first randomly in a text message has pit bull owners and animal lovers really upset. The prankster also seems to have set up a bogus Facebook account for Terry Jordan, a Slater, Missouri, councilman who proposed a vicious dog ordinance that upset local owners of pit bulls. Then the person used the fake account to announce that this Halloween is “National Kill a Pit Bull Day.”

Killing a rabbit in Richmond may not be illegal, but in some states killing a dog is a felony. People are being encouraged to keep their pets safe this Halloween just in case someone didn’t get the joke.

Have a Happy Halloween.

Slideshow: Caught in Costume

Slideshow: Robbers in Disguise

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