University Times

Who killed David Josiah Lawson?

Humboldt State scholar Josiah Lawson was murdered over a year ago; his death remains unsolved.

Cal+State+LA+students+and+faculty+join+the+Lawson+Family+on+Tuesday%2C+May+15+during+a+campus+rally+for+the+%23JusticeForJosiah+movement.
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Who killed David Josiah Lawson?

Cal State LA students and faculty join the Lawson Family on Tuesday, May 15 during a campus rally for the #JusticeForJosiah movement.

Cal State LA students and faculty join the Lawson Family on Tuesday, May 15 during a campus rally for the #JusticeForJosiah movement.

J. Aaron Delgado

Cal State LA students and faculty join the Lawson Family on Tuesday, May 15 during a campus rally for the #JusticeForJosiah movement.

J. Aaron Delgado

J. Aaron Delgado

Cal State LA students and faculty join the Lawson Family on Tuesday, May 15 during a campus rally for the #JusticeForJosiah movement.

Jordan Hansen, Contributor

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Cal State LA students and the Lawson family gathered around the Golden Eagle Statue on Tuesday, May 15 to bring awareness to the “Justice for Josiah” movement.

David Josiah Lawson, a 19-year-old criminal justice major, was stabbed to death last year in the Northern Californian city of Arcata in Humboldt County. The investigation into the Black student’s death, conducted by Arcata Police Department (APD), has so far yielded no convictions, prompting allegations of incompetency and racism at the small-town Police Department.

Tuesday’s event, which began around 12:30 p.m., opened with chants of “Justice for Josiah!” and “Black lives matter!” from students. Some of those in attendance had created posters and display boards depicting Josiah. Terrence Robinson, a second-year theater major, sang gospel hymns as the rally got underway.

Lawson’s mother, Charmaine Michelle Lawson, attended the event, alongside his brother and sister. Ms. Lawson addressed the crowd and described the night she found out that her son had been killed:

“On April 15, 2017 at around 3:37 a.m., I received a phone call from my son’s friend, crying and screaming that Josiah had been stabbed,” she said. Pausing to collect herself, Ms. Lawson went on, “I woke up my 17-year-old and said that we needed to get to the hospital in Humboldt. Less than thirty minutes later, I received a phone call from the doctor saying ‘Ma’am I’m sorry, your son didn’t make it,’” she continued. “I was shocked. I felt numb. I screamed for my child.”

Josiah is believed to have been attending a house party when the stabbing took place. According to APD records, police were called to the 1100 block of Spear Ave. at 3:02 a.m. on the morning of Josiah’s death. An altercation reportedly took place between a number of students before Josiah was found bleeding from stab wounds.

Speaking to a now silent audience, Ms. Lawson voiced her anger and suspicion at APD, who she feels is responsible for the failure of Josiah’s homicide investigation:

“There is a systematic problem taking place in Humboldt County. Chief Chapman of the APD resigned on April 9, 2018. I’m not buying this. There are suspicious behaviors in the department; two of the officers that responded to the call that night also have left the department.”

APD records indicate that an arrest was made in connection with the case, but when contacted by the University Times, APD refused to provide any further information. Local media named the arrested man as Kyle Zoellner, who was charged with Josiah’s murder. After a five-day preliminary hearing, insufficient evidence was found to take Zoellner to trial.

“This is insane,” said Ms. Lawson, speaking of Zoellner’s release. “Key pieces of evidence have not been examined.”

Ms. Lawson is certain that racism within the APD and other agencies is hampering the investigation into her son’s death:

“If the situation was reversed and my Black son was accused of stabbing a white man, he would have been sentenced already.”

Ms. Lawson spoke to the University Times, urging Cal State LA students to sign an online petition to reassign a former FBI agent to the case. Tom Parker was assisting APD in their investigation but stepped down in April this year, claiming that APD was withholding information pertaining to the case, according to local news sources.

Dr. James M. Thomas, a Cal State LA Professor who organized the rally, told the University Times, “It’s a harsh reality for students that coming to university isn’t this panacea. You need to be just as vigilant on a college campus as you would be where you come from.”

For information please visit www.justiceforjosiahlawson.com

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