An attempt by some Ohio sheriff’s officers to dress their horses up like “ghosts” for Halloween became more trick than treat for the department, when some residents complained they looked like the “Ku Klux Klan.”

The Mounted Unit of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office caused the outcry earlier this week, when they paraded around town in the controversial equine ensemble, which included large white sheets covering the animals from head to toe.

The lawmen had hoped that it would be a fun outreach to the community.

“The riders thought what a great idea to have big ghosts going down the street,” Sheriff Frank Leonbruno told FOX 8. In addition to holes cut out for their eyes, nostrils, and ears, the horses were covered in festive orange pumpkin lights.

“As the horses went down the street they were lit up for Halloween. To tell you the truth the community loved it, kids said they were great ghost horses,” Sheriff Leonbruno said.

Two Klu Klux Klansmen on horseback.
Two Klu Klux Klansmen on horseback.
Bettmann Archive

Once pictures of the costumes went up on Facebook, however, some residents were quick to point out the horses’ resemblance to how the KKK dressed their horses to match their own infamous white hoods and robes.

“That was a poor execution for a ghost,” one resident told the outlet. “You go back and look at pictures of the Ku Klux Klan, it’s like the exact replica of what the horses looked like.”

“Is there nobody on staff that is like, ‘This is not a good idea?’” another said. “A sheriff’s office should be out there protecting people, and if I saw that on my street, I would be terrified.”

Lake County Sheriff Frank Leonbruno says his employees did not mean to offend anyone.
Lake County Sheriff Frank Leonbruno says his employees did not mean to offend anyone.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office

The slew of negative comments prompted Leonbruno to remove the post shortly after it was shared. Even so, he stresses that he does not believe his officers did anything wrong and that they did not intend to offend anyone.

“I’m sorry that perception was there,” he said. “It was never our intention to do that.”

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