A man wearing a golden crown and black mask, while also reportedly carrying a hammer and pair of scissors, has been seen roaming around downtown East Lansing, north of the Michigan State University campus.
Photos and videos of the individual have appeared across social media, including Facebook and TikTok. The man’s behavior has ranged from menacing (asking groups of young people if they want to see his scissors) to peculiar (dragging a large box around with him by an attached strap).
For several days, residents have reported their sightings to the East Lansing Police Department (ELPD), with no comment or response released by police to the community until Monday afternoon on Facebook.
“The East Lansing Police Department (ELPD) has been made aware of concerns by the East Lansing and Spartan communities in reference to an individual in the downtown district wearing a black plastic mask and reported to be carrying a hammer and scissors,” it read. “ELPD appreciates the communication that community members have shared.
“Community members are advised that ELPD’s police officers and social workers have been in communication with this individual several times over the last couple of weeks and, over the weekend, two ELPD officers met with the individual and his family members to discuss his recent behavior. At the meeting, it was explained to the individual by ELPD’s officers and his family members that his behavior has raised concerns in the community.”
The post continued, saying that the ELPD is monitoring the individual to ensure he does not violate the law and to determine whether future interventions by the force’s Neighborhood Resource Teams and Crisis Intervention Team are needed.
Comments on the ELPD Facebook post varied greatly. Some offered understanding for the police force, believing officers are doing everything within their power to address the situation. Other comments expressed frustration ELPD isn’t doing more to curb the harassment the masked man is allegedly leveling on the community.
ELPD has not provided more details about the developing situation. ELi Managing Editor Julie Seraphinoff reached out to ELPD Captain Chad Pride who responded, “Currently there is no further comment on this issue.”
During phone interviews with ELi, East Lansing business owners were seemingly nonplussed about the masked man.
Perry Kaguni, co-owner of Campbell’s Market Basket at 547 E. Grand River Ave., isn’t concerned but acknowledges his business always takes measures to keep its workers safe.
“We keep a look out for our employees,” he said. “For one, we make sure there’s never anyone alone at the store. We never schedule someone to work alone.”
Mike Krueger is co-owner of both Crunchy’s at 254 W. Grand River Ave. and The Peanut Barrel at 521 E. Grand River Ave. He has encountered the masked man on the East Lansing Grand River Avenue strip.
“We saw him outside The Peanut Barrel the other day talking to police,” he said. “I just hope he can see why his actions are concerning to some people. And I hope he can get whatever help he needs.”
Worried residents and family members have found other corners of social media to express their concerns and, often, anger. Facebook groups for parents of Michigan State University undergraduate students have been particularly active.
Kelly Burns Goldberg of Farmington Hills is the mother of an MSU senior and the moderator of one such group, Michigan State University Parents.
“My daughter showed me a TikTok video that has since been taken down,” she said. “And [my daughter] saw the man outside Blue Owl Coffee. She lives [on the 500 block of Grand River Avenue] and has seen him carry around Amazon boxes.”
Goldberg explained the group she manages has limited discussion and speculation and hasn’t addressed the masked man.
“There is lots of popcorn content in the other group,” she said. “But as someone who works in a social services agency, it’s obvious we’re seeing an individual with mental health issues. People feel unsafe around him because of his demeanor and what he’s saying. I don’t agree with people who think he should meet draconian measures or be harmed. But it’s important to emphasize the importance of the awareness of [ones] surroundings. Don’t be afraid to make a scene, ask for help, call 911.”
Sue Stuever of Capac, mother of an MSU senior, has a different perspective and has seen sometimes worrisome responses on social media.
“I saw it on some MSU parent pages on Facebook. Originally, it was a calm discussion but then the rumor mill started. Everybody knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody who had seen the man. And some people were saying that students who are licensed to carry firearms should be allowed to [do so] on campus. To bring weapons into this is just scary.
“I have two sons with autism and cognitive challenges,” she continued. “I’m not playing armchair diagnosis but something tells me [the masked man] is not functioning typically. It makes me think of some of the things my son has said. He says some things that are wild. I worry that when my 12-year-old son is 22 years old, someone might react badly to something he says.
“When someone has a mental health issue or cognitive issue or a special need, the worst thing we can do is [to] make a big reaction. When people are giving big reactions, they may be adding to the issues. As parents, we can teach our MSU students how to react to things. Have some situational awareness. If someone makes you uncomfortable, move along, don’t react, don’t make it worse.”