The definition of loitering, as it relates to criminal offense, generally runs along the lines of this: to hang around a public place with no expressed—particularly, legal—purpose. It follows then, that one place you can’t loiter in, by definition, is your home; a very not public place where the expectation is you do whatever (hopefully legal) shit you want.
This was not the case for a black Pennsylvania family. As KYW Newsradio reports, one family is questioning why the Chester Police Department arrested them—twice—for allegedly “loitering” in their own yard.
The chain of police buffoonery kicked off on Oct. 1, when Officer Pasquale Storace III arrested Rachel Briggs’ sons and nephew for playing in her front yard; Storace, who is white, charged the young men with “loitering.”
According to Briggs, the boys were thrown in jail, forcing their families to scramble to raise money for their bail. When they were freed the next day, family members were on hand to welcome them back—right back on Briggs’ front lawn.
Some of the arrests were caught on video. As police arrest two of the family members, family members scream and beg for an explanation.
“They maced my son. He got asthma,” Briggs says later, as her son sits in the cop car. “My son can’t breathe, sir.”
According to Briggs’ family lawyer, Storace showed up and re-arrested the boys, along with other members of their family, charging them with loitering and resisting arrest. Attorney Kevin Mincey said the family wasn’t violating any of the township’s loitering statutes, which have been updated after being deemed unconstitutional in 2012.
“It essentially says there are to be well-posted areas of no loitering signs up that say ‘no loitering.’ There are no ‘no loitering’ signs in this particular neighborhood,” Mincey told KYW.
The family is traumatized from the arrests,
“It’s a terrifying thing,” Briggs told KYW. “It makes me feel as though the police can knock down your door, and drag you out of your home at any time. This is an incident that made me feel like I’m a prisoner in my own home.”
Corrected Monday, Oct. 14 at 10:28 am ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the arrests happened in Chester Township, N.J. The incident actually occurred in Chester Township, Penn.