AYER — In comic book series-turned-movie “V for Vendetta,” the imagery of the main character “V” is haunting. Behind the visage of a Guy Fawkes mask, the anarchist “V” systematically, and violently, overthrows the dictatorship of a post-apocalyptic England.
But whether you know the story line or not, it was probably a bad idea in hindsight for a group of Ayer teens to don “V” masks to scare one another. One 18-year took it a bit too far, police say, and is about to be charged following a string of scary “V” sightings in Ayer and Groton.
Ayer Police Lt. Brian Gill says it started on Sept. 30 when police were called to Westford Road for a report of a masked man peering into residents’ windows.
Groton Police were called to assist and exchange information, as they’d had a similar report from Shaw’s Supermarket earlier. The man reportedly was wearing the “V” mask in the store. He disappeared before police could arrive.
Another sighting took place on Sunday, Oct. 4, when a witness later reported seeing a person standing along a tree line on Loon Hill Road. The suspect was wearing dark clothes and, again, a “V for Vendetta” mask. The witness did not report the sighting until police canvassing the neighborhood days later came upon the witness and interviewed him about what he saw.
Two days later on Tuesday, Oct. 6, a motorist reported seeing a white male standing on Westford Road at Loon Hill holding a “V for Vendetta” mask and then running off under nearby power lines.
Later at 11 p.m. that same day, a person at a Loon Hill residence reported seeing a man standing at the edge of a front lawn, dressed in dark clothing, wearing a “V for Vendetta” mask, but this time the man was allegedly holding a large knife. The witness yelled at the man to stop but the suspect took flight when the resident yelled out a warning that the police had been called.
The report set off an extensive search of the area by Ayer Police, led by Sgt. Austin Cote, and Patrolmen Jennifer Bigelow and Richard Krasinskas. Groton Police assisted, along with the Massachusetts State Police and the State Police K-9 unit. Despite the efforts of the officers and the police dog, the suspect was not apprehended at that time.
The event sparked a door-to-door canvassing of the neighborhood by both uniformed patrolmen and Ayer Police Detectives Andrew Kularski and Kellie Barhight. It was then that they discovered the witness to the earlier, unreported Oct. 4 “V” sighting.
In the end, the investigation revealed that masked men sightings began a joke that between a group of five friends, all teens from Ayer, trying to scare each other. After a thorough investigation, the suspect was identified.
The 18-year old will be charged with disorderly conduct for scaring and alarming his neighbors on two occasions. Until the charges are formally brought, the Ayer Police are withholding the man’s name.
Ayer police were able to seize two of the masks as evidence. The group admitted to burning the other four masks used by the friends after hearing that the police were looking into the strange sightings, according to Gill.