OMAHA, Neb. — As state trooper Tom Hicken walked toward the vehicle he just pulled over, he noticed that the driver wore a big red coat. And had a long white beard.
Then Hicken got a good look at the motorist and realized what he’d done.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Hicken said. “‘I’ve got Santa stopped.’”
The Santa was Scott Klinger, a Bennington, Nebraska, man who plays Santa at local stores and events.
Hicken pulled him over on Interstate 680 in Omaha on Sunday evening for having a taillight out on his sleigh, or rather, his Subaru Forester.
Klinger said that earlier in the day he was dressed as Santa at a Christmas photo shoot and was heading to a costume party dressed as St. Nick when he got pulled over just south of Fort Street.
Hicken said in his 15 years as a trooper he’s pulled over all sorts of people, but never Santa. He admits he was a bit surprised when he saw Klinger in costume behind the wheel.
Hicken said Klinger was cooperative and friendly — even jolly you might say.
All Santa got was a reminder ticket to get the taillight fixed.
Klinger, 54, said he started playing the man in red two years ago and portrays him as an old-world Nordic Santa. Instead of a red cap, Klinger said, he wears a red hood. Rather than black boots and belt buckle, he wears brown. Plus, he carries a wooden staff he made himself.
And his white beard is real.
He said he gets plenty of looks this time of year when driving in costume to stores and other places to play Santa. People in other cars will wave and take photos.
Klinger flashes a smile, waves back and wishes them “Merry Christmas.”
Klinger, who has a nephew in law enforcement, said he appreciated that Hicken was trying to keep him safe.
“Police officers,” he said, “are always on my nice list.”