Three Easthampton High School students arrested over fight on school grounds

  • Josh Brown at takes a photo of fellow students at the Easthampton High walk out in support of diversity.

@ecutts_HG
Published: 3/31/2017 5:42:38 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Three Easthampton High School students were arrested Thursday night in connection with a fight in the school’s parking lot Wednesday that police say was preceded by a racist statement one student sent to another on social media days earlier.

Joshua Brown, 18, pleaded not guilty in Northampton District Court Friday morning to charges of assault and battery and intimidating a witness. Two other students, both juveniles, were also arrested but it was not immediately clear Friday if they had been arraigned in juvenile court in Hadley, Easthampton Police Officer Chad Alexander said.

A victim during the fight, who police allege posted the racist statement online, suffered a concussion after taking several punches to the head from the students arrested, according to court documents. Brown declined to comment after his arraignment in court Friday.

The arrests came a day after the fight and hours after a large student walkout Thursday morning when hundreds of students left the school and marched to the Municipal Building on Payson Avenue. Many students said they were marching to raise concerns about the way the School Department has handled racist incidents at the high school. After a brief meeting outside the Municipal Building with School Superintendent Nancy Follansbee and Mayor Karen L. Cadieux, the students returned to the school.

Later Thursday afternoon, Follansbee, Cadieux, school principal Kevin Burke and Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti met with the entire student body at the school.

Police were dispatched to Easthampton High School parking lot about 2:10 p.m. Wednesday for a report of a ongoing fight. When officers arrived, they did not see a fight but stopped and questioned a student about the incident.

The student described the fight “as two sucker punches” and identified Brown and the victim – another high school student, Easthampton Police Officer Rick Rogalski wrote in a police report. Rogalski wrote that he found the victim and observed that the left side of his face was swollen. The student was eventually taken to the doctor by a parent and was diagnosed with a concussion, according to the report.

Police obtained a video recording of the fight. After viewing the footage, Rogalski wrote in his report that the victim was punched three times, once by each of the students arrested.

The student who was punched informed Burke of his reluctance to seek punishment for those involved, but Burke told the student he wanted to press charges, according to the report.

Before the fight, the victim allegedly sent a former girlfriend a message on Snapchat asking if she was “still dating that n–,” Rogalski wrote. He later apologized, according to police.

Police were notified of that message by a concerned citizen but Alexander said there was nothing criminal to investigate.

The female student had taken a screenshot of the message that was ultimately posted on social media.

In the report, Rogalski wrote that two other students, both juveniles, were being charged with aggravated assault and battery resulting in serious injury and intimidation of a witness.

Brown was released on condition that he stay 10 yards away from the alleged victim in school and 100 yards away from him outside the building.

Follansbee and Burke could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.




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