In a bizarre incident on Wednesday, police in Massachusetts arrested a man for engaging in free expression too closely to an elementary school.
George Cross, 40, was charged with loitering within 1,000 feet of a school and causing a disturbance at a school after he was spotted wearing a stormtrooper costume from the Star Wars franchise in what appears to be the latest case of “think of the children” hysteria.
“He was arrested because he was disturbing the school,” Lynn Police Lieutenant Rick Donnelly said by phone, adding that Cross’ costumed theatrics forced a lockdown on the school, preventing students from leaving the building and parents from entering the building to pick up their children.
“It could’ve been a tragedy,” Donnelly said, but noted that Cross was only carrying a plastic toy gun.
Cross told several news media outlets, including WHDH, that he was just walking around in the outfit to show his friends.
Donnelly was unsure if Cross had actually set foot on school grounds, saying the police report was unclear, meaning we can be almost certain he never stepped on the property of Brickett Elementary School.
Donnelly would not provide a copy of the report by email, saying it was against policy, but said he would ask to find out if he could send it, which is something a high-ranking public information officer should already know.
The incident is reminiscent of another Massachusetts incident last year when Braintree police took a man to court for allegedly impersonating a police officer after he decorated his $80,000 Maserati to look like a character from the Transformers series. That case was laughed out of court by a clerk magistrate.
Also last year, a man who calls himself Stormtrooper Sam drew the attention of police in Kansas when he was walking around in public in a stormtrooper costume to create a video for his Twitter and Vine pages.
But Salina police did not bother arresting Chris Burns, realizing he was harmless.
There is also a Pinterest page titled Stormtroopers Real Life filled with photos of various people in stormtrooper costumes. And as you can see in the photo below, there was an instance of NYPD cops arresting a stormtrooper but we still have not determined if it was an actual arrest or just a posed photo to generate laughs.
UPDATE (6/6/2015): After PINAC writer Maya Shaffer took several hours out of her day to travel to and from the Lynn Police Station, we were finally provided with a copy of the arrest report for George Cross that the department refused to provide by email.
The report states that police spoke with the principal of Brickett Elementary School before arresting Cross. The principal’s name was redacted by the police department, but her name is Eileen P. Cole.
The reports states that Cole recognized that Cross was only carrying a plastic toy and not a real gun, but says she locked down the school because “you can never be too safe” and “because she was unaware of his intentions.”
The report notes that Cross was standing on a public sidewalk about 100 feet from the entrance to the school when police arrived and makes no mention of any allegations that he ever set foot on school grounds. The report also makes no mention of police asking Cross to leave the area before arresting him.
According to the report, Cross told police he was standing outside the school “because he thought the children would like the costume,” although he appears to dispute this considering his comments to news media after his arrest.