After several months of studying religion in Bali, Julian Adame was looking forward to seeing more of the world.
The 22-year-old University of Redlands senior headed to Japan in May and planned to meet a friend in Thailand a few days later. But when he didn’t show up, fellow student Kate Emmons got worried.
After numerous calls and messages to embassies in different countries, Emmons learned that her friend had been jailed in Shibuya, Japan, after officials said he resisted arrest.
Nine months later, Adame is still overseas — now in a Tokyo detention center. His next court appearance is scheduled for mid-February.
Emmons, 22, also a senior at the University of Redlands, has been collecting donations to assist with Adame’s return to the States, coordinate visits and keep in touch with government officials.
Officials at the University of Redlands have been in contact with local and international law enforcement agencies, a university spokesperson said, and some of Adame’s professors have written to Japanese authorities, testifying to his character.
The U.S. State Department said that consular officers are assisting Adame and that state officials visit him regularly at the Tokyo detention center.
Adame’s ordeal started as a night out with people he had met in his hostel, Emmons said. The night he was arrested, Adame had a few beers and fell asleep in a bar. His new companions had taken off and Japanese police officers woke him, but Adame was distrustful of the men, Emmons said. His friends had warned him before they left the hostel to beware of Japanese gang members dressing like police and extorting or kidnapping travelers.
So when officers told Adame that he owed $900 for breaking a lamp, Emmons said, her friend didn’t believe them.
“He was convinced they were gang members,” she said.
Adame was taken first to a community police box and then driven to his hostel to pick up his passport.
According to Emmons, a video submitted as evidence shows Adame repeatedly telling officers, “You’re going to kill me.” He called 911 more than a dozen times during his confrontation with Japanese officials, she said.
When Adame retrieved his passport, officers began handcuffing him, Emmons said.
“He was really startled by this, so he turned around and accidentally scuffed one of the officers’ chins,” she said, leading to a charge of “the obstruction of the performance of official duties.”
Emmons slowly learned the series of events after piecing together information from U.S. embassy officials in Tokyo, letters from Adame and a five-minute conversation during one visit she made to the Shibuya jail in May.
Adame’s mother, Leah Smith of Sacramento, said she didn’t immediately know her son was missing because they had been estranged and hadn’t talked for two years. When she learned of his incarceration from Emmons’ social media postings, Smith said she went through a roller coaster of emotions.
“First, he was missing, then he was found, then he was in jail. It was literally the worst day of my life,” she said. “My son had never gotten in trouble with the law in any way.”
Smith said her son’s ordeal has rekindled their relationship, and she hopes that once he’s released, they can make up for lost time.
Meanwhile, after months of delays and postponed court hearings, Emmons is trying to raise $6,000 through a GoFundMe campaign in preparation for Adame’s release.
“I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much than over the past few months,” she said. “It’s been this really heartbreaking cycle of let-downs. Imagining him being alone in a cell for this many months fills me with a deep sorrow.”