Northampton police use pepper spray on disruptive library patron

  • The entrance to Forbes Library in Northampton is shown Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/BERA DUNAU

Staff Writer
Published: 3/28/2019 11:38:39 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Police pepper-sprayed a man at Forbes Library on Thursday afternoon while removing him from the building at the library’s request.

The incident occurred around 4:15 p.m., according to Forbes Library Director Lisa Downing.

Downing said the man was asked to leave because he was intoxicated.

“He was vomiting and starting to become agitated and nasty with those around him,” Downing said. “That’s where we draw the line, because we want it to be a safe and comfortable environment for everybody.”

Downing said the library first asked the man to leave on his own and “get some fresh air,” before calling the police. In the process of removing him, the police used pepper spray on the man in the elevator at the front entrance of the library.

The aerosol spray also affected library patrons, and the front entrance was eventually closed off. Patrons were directed to use another exit and entrance.

“Luckily, we were able to keep the doors open,” Downing said. “It was very noxious when it first happened.”

Maureen O’Reilly, a contributing writer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, entered the library prior to the incident, and she observed patrons entering through the front entrance coughing before it was closed off.

Downing has asthma, and she said she had never smelled pepper spray before. She said it made her cough and that it felt “clawing in my lungs.”

Downing said that while the library has had people escorted out of it by police before, it’s not a common occurrence.

“It’s been months, if not longer,” she said.

Police declined to comment on the incident, saying to ask about it Friday morning.

Bera Dunau can be reached at


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