Students at Indiana University in Bloomington had a case of mistaken identity on Monday, after they alleged on social media that a man in Ku Klux Klan attire was walking around campus with a whip.
As rumors began to spread, one residence hall assistant was so concerned about the incident that he sent an alarming email to his residents.
"There has been a person reported walking around campus in a KKK outfit holding a whip. Because the person is protected under the First Amendment rights, IUPD cannot remove the person from campus unless an act of violence is committed," said Ethan Gill. "Please PLEASE PLEASE be very careful out there tonight, always be with someone and if you have no dire reason to be out of the building, I would recommend staying indoors if you’re alone."
"If you feel unsafe, please contact me," he added.
The "klansman," however, turned out to be a priest searching for frozen custard.
According to the Daily Caller, the white-robed individual was actually just Fr. Jude McPeak, a Catholic priest who wears the traditional dress of the Dominican order of friars. As for the alleged whip: it was most likely McPeak's rosary or the brown belt worn around his waste.
McPeak serves as an associate pastor at the St. Paul Catholic Center, which is Indiana University's center for Catholic students, the Daily Caller noted.
Once McPeak was spotted at Red Mango, the campus frozen custard stand, Gill sent an additional email to his residents informing them of the mishap.
"Behold, your 'klansmember….'
"This is what happens when there is miscommunication. So what happened tonight goes like this: a person saw white robes and what looked to them like a weapon, got scared (rightfully so), warned people, warned staff, which in turn caused me to warn my residents because I need to look out for my residents, which in turn made it spread.
"Then my residents, terrified, come running to me, saying yeah the report must be true, they saw him and couldn‘t believe there was a klansmember with a whip. And I see this picture. It’s a priest. With a rosary.
"Now, I get it why a person would be scared. There in fact HAVE been klansmembers on the campus spurting hate speech, but never have they been reported with a weapon. So yeah, if it was in fact a weapon and a threat, it’s a good thing to warn a friend. So when someone warns other people, we need to be cautious. However, what I’ve learned from this is to take anything with a grain of salt. In the future, I’m still sending my residents warnings of threats, crime, hate gatherings, and all that but I will wait for a confirmation. But now that there is no danger I can say: this is a hilarious miscommunication."
McPeak later told student-run news outlet TheTab that "this isn’t the first time" he was mistaken to be a member of the white supremacist group because of his white robes. However he said this latest incident has been "funny" and "humbling."
"I thought it was kind of funny," McPeak said. "A lot of my friends have been teasing me. It’s been humbling."
The Dominican friars even got word of the "scare" and poked fun of the incident on Twitter:
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