The Sparks Police Department says it received three phone calls about a suspicious man, dressed like a clown Monday. One was in the area of Pah Rah Mountain Park, and two other calls came near the Shadow Mountain Sports Complex.

Alex Ruelas is a Sparks resident who says he and his friends were on their way to the store to buy ingredients for spaghetti, when he spotted a clown in the parking lot of Shadow Mountain.  He says they turned around out of curiosity, and found him near the concession stand of the softball fields, holding what appeared to be a machete. 

"It's kind of funny," Ruelas said. "It's kind of amusing and then when he started running at us, with the machete, that's when it kind of sunk in."

They recorded video of the clown on Snapchat.  The video shows some of his group taunting the clown, before he chased them off.

"Yo, he's just (expletive) standing there," Ruelas says on the video. "I'm out dude. (Expletive) that. No, man. No. Oh, (expletive)."

The group of friends ran back to the parking lot, and didn't see the clown again. Ruelas says he does not know if the clown planned to hurt them.

"I don't know," Ruelas said. "He kind of ran towards us. I feel like if he would've gotten a chance to, he would've, but I don't think we would've let it escalate to that."

Incidents involving clowns have been rising across the United States since August.  Some have threatened schools, teachers, and students.  Children in South Carolina say one clown tried to lure them into the woods by offering them candy.

Officers say the Sparks clown could be a prank, but say suspicious behavior should be taken seriously, especially around schools. Shadow Mountain is right next to Reed High School.

"If a person has a machete and is acting in a menacing or threatening or intimidating manner, potentially, they could be breaking some laws, and more than likely will be contacted by law enforcement," Officer Ken Gallop, Sparks Police Department said.

Ruelas and his friends did not call the police, saying it probably wouldn't have done any good and would have only wasted their time.  Gallop says he is skeptical of the story, saying it is possible the clown and the group were part of a hoax.  It's also possible, the clown was pulling his own prank, which could interfere with police activity.

"I don't know whether or not that was a prank but if it is determined to be a prank, then we've wasted a ton of resources that could actually be helping people that actually need our assistance," Gallop said.

Ruelas says his video is not a hoax.

"I don't think we had time to think of something like that," Ruelas said. "I didn't really know about the clowns, pretty much until it happened."

Ruelas says if people see the clown, they should not do the same thing he did.  One of the other people in his group said they should call the police, rather than put themselves in a dangerous situation.

"I think if other people see him, they should just steer clear," Ruelas said. "There's a lot of people that say they would have shot him. They would've done all sorts of things."

Sparks police agree that suspicious behavior should be reported, but that people should not jump to conclusions.

"If somebody's wearing a cowboy outfit, a clown outfit, shorts and a t-shirt, we need to look beyond that. What is the person doing? What are they up to?"

From the Sparks Police Department:

If you are considering becoming involved in the creepy clown phenomenon; would you then also consider the effect or potential consequences of your actions. Police resources are being tied up with unsubstantiated reports of violent crimes perpetrated by suspects wearing clown outfits.  

Over the last few days, suspects wearing clown outfits committing crimes and acting suspiciously have been reported to Sparks Police. Our objective in any case is to thoroughly investigate based upon available facts, witnesses, and evidence. Officers have not been able to substantiate any claims of assaults or threats. If someone feels they have been threatened, assaulted or otherwise victimized in a case like this, please contact Sparks Police to file a report and provide raw video footage if available.

There seems to be more coverage of the creepy clown phenomenon, especially online with many pranks shown on video to scare, annoy or shock people and in some cases market an event. Our concern is police resources being tied up on what turns out to be a prank when someone may actually need police services.  

On October 4, 2016 at about 3:00am, Officers responded to a report of a person dressed up like a clown near Reed High School threatening people with a weapon. This was unsubstantiated, and no report was filed. This precipitated officers responding to an actual shooting on Maxine Circle where someone had been shot.

Many other unsubstantiated reports of suspects wearing clown outfits chasing people and running into traffic were reported in Wing Field Springs.

If anyone decides to publicly act out or exhibit what appears to be criminal activity or what looks like someone assaulting others with a weapon; this will likely cause a significant police response. Officers will respond to control the situation, locate the suspect(s) and investigate. This could also cause a passerby to become involved and intervene in what they perceive as a crime in-process. People may react and someone could get hurt or a person may defend themselves against what they perceive as a threat.

It is not illegal to dress up like a clown, but if you decide to clown around, obey the law.

Report suspicious activity or criminal activity to Sparks Police at 353-2231 or call 911 in the case of an emergency or crime in-progress.