Pierce County park visitors assaulted by gang of thugs

July 12, 2006
Seattle Times
By Jennifer Sullivan

For several nights last month, a group of thugs with black hooded sweat shirts pulled tight over their heads, including at least one in "angry" clown makeup, terrorized visitors to Pierce County's Fort Steilacoom Park, police say.

The group cried "woo, woo, Juggalo" as they assaulted park visitors with a machete and fists. They stole cellphones, cash and wallets and even threatened to cut their victims' heads off, according to court documents.

So far, two men and a woman have been charged with robbery and assault for their alleged roles in the string of attacks, said Pierce County deputy prosecutor Phil Sorensen. Prosecutors say the suspects claim to be "Juggalos," a subculture that has developed among the fan base of the rap/metal group Insane Clown Posse.

"The violence was gratuitous," said Lakewood police Lt. Dave Guttu. "They [victims] had already given up their stuff and were assaulted anyway."

Two victims suffered broken jaws in the attacks that occurred the nights of June 18-20 and early in the morning of June 21. Another was kicked in the head, and a woman said her attackers demanded that she take off her pants, according to prosecutors.

All of the victims were at the park after it closed, police said.

Guttu said eight to 10 more people are being sought for their alleged roles in the attacks, in which 23 people were injured.

According to prosecutors, one of the men charged in the attacks claimed that Juggalo groups are growing in Pierce County — going by the names "Hatchet Riders," "Juggalo Empire" and "Northwest Juggalo Posse."

"The people in the Juggalo group say they're seeing violence on the rise among the Juggalo group," Guttu said.

Anthony Pierce, 29, Crystal Hilliard, 19, and Daniel Barnum, 21, are accused of participating in the park assaults. But, Guttu says, violence is atypical among Juggalos in Lakewood, where the park is located.

Juggalos and Juggalettes — as female fans of Insane Clown Posse are called — are known to dress in black and wear black and white clownlike face paint. According to a statement on the Web site whatisajuggalo.com, the subculture preaches racial tolerance and belief in a religion.

Spokespeople for Insane Clown Posse's record label, Psychopathic Records, didn't return calls for comment Tuesday. The band is scheduled to perform this weekend in the annual "Gathering of Juggalos," a large outdoor concert near Columbus, Ohio.

Victims of the Fort Steilacoom violence reported that one woman was wearing black clownlike eye makeup and other attackers were dressed in black hoodies, Guttu said. One person carried a machete. The Insane Clown Posse is often identified by the symbol of a laughing clown carrying a meat cleaver or hatchet.

Sorensen, the deputy prosecutor, said other people claiming to be Juggalos have been charged in violent crimes.

Guttu said the park, which closes at 9 p.m., had become a popular hangout for Juggalos to drink and smoke marijuana. He advises park visitors to visit the park only when it is open.