A homeschool group in South Carolina is beginning to raise funds to help defend two of its members – a teenage boy and a mother – who were arrested after a confrontation with a plainclothes police officer at a park.
The incident occurred at Simpsonville Park in Simpsonville, S.C. last Wednesday. A group of mothers and children from Upstate Homeschoolers Unlimited were socializing and playing in the park – a common activity for homeschool support groups.
After a call came in to police about someone in the park having a knife, a plainclothes policeman rushed into the picnic shelter where some of the homeschoolers were gathered.
According to parents who witnessed the event, the policeman began shouting at two teenage boys, pushing at least one to the ground. When he went to grab one of the boys, a mother, who at the time was holding another woman's baby, stepped in to stop him, not realizing he was a police officer.
Priscilla Adams and Jan Blanchard were two of the other moms present.
"(The intervening mother) turned to Jan and said, 'Call the police.' That's when he told us that he was the police," Adams said.
The 16-year-old boy was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, a small hunting knife on his belt, and the mother was arrested for assaulting a police officer, even though witnesses say the man's badge and gun were not in a place where they easily could be seen.
Continued Adams: "The plainclothes officer was incredibly belligerent and angry right from the moment he rushed under the shelter. He could so easily have stopped as soon as he came up to us, announced that he was a police officer and needed to talk to the boy with the knife, but he didn't do any of that. Instead he shouted, shoved, verbally abused, intimidated. He acted so horrible it never occurred to me, or to any of us, that he was a police officer. He just seemed like a crazy man."
At that point, a uniformed officer came on the scene and confirmed that the plainclothes cop was indeed with the Simpsonville Police Department.
"The plainclothes guy told the woman holding the baby to put him down, that she was going to be arrested," Adams said. "I asked him what he was arresting her for since she hadn't done anything wrong. He told me for assaulting a police officer. I protested that she hadn't known he was a police officer. He told me to shut up or I would be arrested too.
"So not only can he arrest a boy for carrying a knife that was not concealed, and charge him with carrying a concealed weapon, not only can he assault a woman holding a baby, then arrest her for assaulting him, but apparently he can arrest people just for arguing with him."
The mother of the boy arrested was in the restroom during the altercation, returning just as her son was placed, handcuffed, into a police car.
Commenting on the action of her friend who tried to intervene, the woman said, "She was driven up to the police station and placed in a cell, all because she protected my son from a strange man."
Continued the mother: "One [uniformed] officer said he was about to draw his weapon. He had already unsnapped it and was pulling it out to draw and aim at my son, because he thought he was about to pull the knife on the plainclothes investigator. This same officer said there was no telling how many people could have gotten killed – in other words, he was prepared to shoot toward the shelter with all the small children around."
According to a report by local TV station WHNS, the plainclothes officer is on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
"Whether it was an overreaction to a response, we'll find that out when we do the internal affairs thing," Police Chief Charles Reece told the station.
Responding to the parents concern about the reaction of the baby-holding mother, Reece said, "I can't say how I would have reacted. I'm a parent also and I've got children too, and I understand she was trying to protect the child. I understand that."
The police chief says the homeschooling group is welcome at the park and should not be afraid. But the parents say they will not be returning because they are scared of what could happen.
"We've felt very safe there before, and having the police station just beside the park seemed to be an advantage," Adams said. "We felt like nobody too bad would bother our kids with policemen so close by. We never thought it would be the police themselves that would be the frightening ones, the ones who would make our kids feel unsafe, who would make them have nightmares or keep them from even being able to sleep."
Adams told WND there are efforts under way to raise money for the costs of defending the teenager and the mother who were arrested. She also said that while one parent filed an official complaint against the plainclothes officer with the police department, further protests are not planned at this time.
Reece said his department's investigation should be completed by week's end.