Boardman dad's clown prank ends in child endangering charges - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Boardman dad's clown prank ends in child endangering charges

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L: Vernon Barrett Jr. R: Dion Santiago L: Vernon Barrett Jr. R: Dion Santiago
BOARDMAN TWP., Ohio -

The age-old question of how to discipline a child led to a Boardman man facing criminal charges, after a unique attempt at discipline. 

Boardman police say 25-year-old Vernon Barrett Jr. was charged late Saturday night after a "prank" on his six-year-old daughter went wrong. 

Sergeant Chuck Hillman with Boardman Police says in his 28 years, "This is the first time where a parent has done something like this."

Just before 10:30 pm a woman called 911 saying that a small child was being chased by a man in a clown mask and the child had jumped into her vehicle. According to a police report, the woman later told officers that the man in the mask pulled the girl from the car. 

The girl then reportedly ran into an unlocked neighboring apartment and asked the family inside if she could stay there because a clown was chasing her.  

When officers went to check on the girl, who was still hiding inside the apartment, they told her that it was just her father in the mask. However, according to the report, the girl was not reassured and ran into a back bedroom to hide. 

"She was very scared and alarmed even when the officers explained to her that it was her father it still took her a while to calm down and regain her composure," Sergeant Hillman said.

Forty-eight-year-old Dion Santiago, who lives in the apartment, told police that when the girl ran in, he turned off the lights, looked out the apartment window and saw a man dressed in a clown mask on the lawn outside. 

According to the report, Santiago told officers that he grabbed his firearm and fired one gunshot out of the window. The report goes on to say that Santiago later told officers that he had not pointed the gun at the man in the mask, or into the air. 

Police say that they smelled alcohol on Santiago, who reportedly admitted to officers that he was drinking a few beers while watching a fight on TV when the girl came into his apartment. 

Barrett, who, according to the report, admitted to police that he was "playing a prank" on his daughter. 

The report says that Barrett told officers that the girl's mother is currently in jail for child endangering and that he could not discipline the girl because of past trauma. 

Sergeant Hillman says at this time he has not been able to confirm the story about the little girl's mother.

One thing that is most disturbing to detectives is that they say Barrett put his daughter's safety in jeopardy by pulling the prank and allowing her to run scared down the street.

"He caused her to flee and run in a manner where she ran out in front of a vehicle and then ran into someone's apartment that she didn't even now.  So the fortunate thing is the child wasn't injured," Sergeant Hillman tells 21 News.

Both Barrett and his girlfriend allegedly told officers that they had been having problems with the girl's behavior at school and at home. 

Barrett was arrested for child endangering and inducing panic. Meanwhile, officers also arrested Santiago for one charge of operating a firearm while intoxicated. 

Both men are due in court on Tuesday. 

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