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Ryo First-Arai of Leeds pleads not guilty to assaulting police officers while high on mushrooms

Ryo S. First-Arai, 19, of 523 Kennedy Road pleaded not guilty in Northampton District Court to two counts of assault and battery on a police officer and one count of resisting arrest.

According to police, First-Arai’s father called 911 about 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 23, saying that his son had ingested psychedelic mushrooms and was destroying items in the house and running outside making threatening comments. Upon arrival, police found First-Arai hanging out of a second-floor bathroom window, according to court papers.

According to police, when officers grabbed onto his legs and began to pull him back inside, he responded by kicking, screaming and swearing. Officers John Perry and William Lebrun were treated at Cooley Dickinson Hospital for exposure to First-Arai’s blood and saliva during the altercation, according to court records.

Witnesses told police that First-Arai and two friends had eaten the mushrooms about 9 p.m. the previous night before attending a concert in Northampton. The witnesses said they returned to the house about 2:30 a.m. and continued to drink alcohol.

After his arraignment Wednesday, First-Arai was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on Dec. 4.

Legacy Comments2

It’s clear to me that your research for this piece went exactly as far as the police report and no further, and that’s a shame; because if you had taken the time to speak to Ryo's parents, Nat and Katherine, not only would your readers would have received a more accurate narrative of the events in question, they may also have been spared the cynical, tabloid style in which you chose to relate them. You would have known, for example, that no one at the house that day felt for a moment that Ryo was a threat to anyone but himself, and that Nat called for an ambulance only when he found Ryo hanging loosely from a second story window and was genuinely afraid he would fall. You would have learned that it was, in fact, Nat and one of the officers who dragged Ryo back through the window, and that, in the midst of taking Ryo into custody, one of the officers had raised his nightstick and Nat had to plead with him not to hit his son. Perhaps you would also have glimpsed some of the anguish of the situation and found it more difficult to play the words of a 19 year old kid in the midst of a chemically induced psychotic breakdown for laughs. The public shaming your article seems so intent upon delivering serves no one.

I am writing to express my support for Ryo First-Arai and his family and my deep disapproval of the nature of this article about him. The article offers a sensationalist description of a young person in distress that does not fit with the balanced and thoughtful reporting that I have found characteristic of the Gazette. If any of us had a child in distress and needing help, how would we want that reported? The brief description of the incident in the Area Police News two days ago sets a more appropriate tone. As a psychiatrist, I am regularly in the position of arranging for emergency help for someone who is in extreme distress, including calling an ambulance and at times the police to help someone get needed care, as Katherine First and Nat Arai did for their son. The style of reporting of this article is dangerous, as it may make other families less likely to get needed emergency support for a loved one for fear of public exposure. I appreciate the willingness of Northampton police to put themselves in harm’s way to help someone in need access emergency health services, and I ask them to continue to stay true to the department value of using the least force necessary to keep those individuals and other members of our community safe. I call upon the Gazette to offer an apology to Ryo First-Arai and his family and to use more care and balance in reporting about the young members of our community.

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