Sheridan Police Say Reports Of Strange Men, Ski Masks And Sketchy Machete Threat Not Related

Sheridan Police Chief Travis Koltiska said a series of reports this week of strange men approaching people, others in ski masks, and an exaggerated report of a man with a machete aren’t related.

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Clair McFarland

March 08, 20245 min read

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A series of bizarre encounters reported in Sheridan this week are not related, police say.

One young woman reported a stranger trying to get in her car, while another said two Eastern European men tried to lure her toward their own car.

But there’s no evidence they’re connected, Sheridan Police Chief Travis Koltiska told Cowboy State Daily.

“There is nothing that connects any of these reports together,” he said. “Absolutely nothing.”

The Barista

As she approached her car about 5:30 Tuesday morning, Justine Scanlon looked up and found a masked man staring at her, she told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.  

Scanlon, 19, rushed back into her home and woke her mom and stepdad, she said.  

Her stepdad went outside and looked up and down the street, but didn’t see the man anywhere.

Everyone waited about 20 minutes, then the parents walked Scanlon to her car.

As she drove to the coffee shop where she works, the man approached her car again, pounded at the windows, tugged on the handle and demanded that she open the door, Scanlon said.

She couldn’t see many of his attributes, but said he had dark eyes and seemed older than she.

Fortunately, she’d locked her car door before the drive because she was already creeped out that morning, she said.

She sped off, called 911, and arrived at the coffee shop alone.

Her sister, who also works at the shop, arrived about half an hour later.

Scanlon didn’t have mace spray at the time, but said she carries it now.

“I just think everybody needs to be more aware of their surroundings, because unexpected things can happen anywhere at any time,” said Scanlon.

Koltiska was unable to give more details about Scanlon’s case, saying it’s under investigation. But he confirmed that police are looking for surveillance footage from the area, which was around Coffeen Street.

A Coaxing

Another Sheridan woman, Tia Seeley, told Cowboy State Daily she was driving to a Bible study at about 5 p.m. Monday when she stopped for gas at the Farmer’s Co-op.

Two Eastern European men pulled up perpendicular to her vehicle as she washed her windows.

They said they were Ukrainian and needed help; one held a piece of jewelry as if to show it to her, she said. She tried getting them to speak up.

They gestured for her to come nearer, she recalled.

When she withdrew instead of approaching, they became angry, Seeley said.

One of the men reached down as if to pull his own door handle.

She hopped back into her car and called police.

“When I pulled out my phone, they started to slowly creep away from me,” she said. “Once the phone came up to my ear they floored it into traffic.”

Jewelry

Evidence suggests that the two men who approached Seeley were selling jewelry, said Koltiska.

An officer tracked them down and told them not to panhandle in Sheridan.

Whether the jewelry could have been a ploy for something more sinister, Koltiska declined to speculate.

“I can’t look into the mind of someone,” he said.

Seeley didn’t want to speculate either, but she said she made a public post about the strange encounter to encourage others to be aware of their surroundings and stay safe.

As for Seeley, she packs a 9 mm pistol, she said.

Try That In A Small Town

These and other odd happenings have been surfacing via social media posts. There have been reports of wanderers with knives, masked people intimidating others and one pepper-spraying incident.

The Sheridan Police Department dispatched a statement Wednesday responding to the two women’s reports and to other, more tenuous reports made online this week.

The statement says last weekend started off with people scaring others on purpose. A car full of people in ski masks were reportedly following girls around the Sheridan College campus Saturday.

Police found the car. The males inside said they were trying to “freak people out.”

The officer cited four of them for breach of peace, says the statement, adding that it’s “highly inadvisable” to scare people on purpose.

Koltiska put it more directly, saying people who are in fear of their safety will defend themselves.

“And they have an absolute right to do so,” he added.

Koltiska said the four males denied that their scare tactic was the result of a TikTok challenge, but there have been recent TikTok challenges of that vein.

Not Sure About This One

Another bizarre report was made by someone on Facebook claiming to have been accosted by a man with a machete.

Koltiska said the report SPD received said something different: a man was seen walking the streets with a knife on two occasions, and on the second sighting, others chased him down with a baseball bat.

“We cannot create public hysteria based off of Facebook,” he said, after discussing the difference between the Facebook post and the actual report.

“The police department is investigating every report thoroughly and we’ll take appropriate action,” he added.

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter