By Chase Davis, Boston Globe Correspondent
A Malden, Mass. man dressed as Santa Claus was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after police said he repeatedly dropped his costume's pants in front of shoppers at a busy mall in Salem, N.H.
Police said Richard Mullen, 52, pulled down his Santa pants at least three times in front of onlookers at the Mall at Rockingham Park, including once as security guards escorted him out of the mall on Sunday.
He was wearing sweat pants under the costume and never exposed himself, police said, but the act of pants-dropping was enough to warrant a disorderly conduct charge. He was released on $200 bail and was scheduled for arraignment Jan. 9 in Salem District Court.
''He said something to the effect of he was just having some fun with the kids," said Salem Police Captain Robert Larsen, summarizing the explanation he said Mullen gave to officers as he was booked, still wearing the costume, at the Salem Police Department.
Police still do not know why Mullen was dressed as Kris Kringle or what he was doing in Salem, more than 30 miles from his home, but said he was not employed as a mall-sanctioned Santa and that children had not sat on his lap.
Larsen said Mullen first pulled his pants down in a department store attached to the mall about 2:45 p.m., prompting store employees to kick him out. He then wandered through the mall, dropping his pants at least once more before mall security was called to remove him.
Salem police arrested him minutes after he was escorted from the building as he drove away, Larsen said.
''We've had a lot of unusual things happen here," Larsen said. ''But this is something I haven't seen before."