“Neither police nor HSU officials released the name of the detained man, but according to Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office logs, authorities booked a Kyle Zoellner into the county jail on Saturday on suspicion of murder. Zoellner was the only inmate booked into the county jail Saturday for murder and a Facebook page belonging to a Kyle Zoellner indicated he lived in McKinleyville.”
The facebook page has since been taken down and it appears that the suspect is not an HSU student.
Mckinleyville in itself is noteworthy because it is the next town over from Humboldt State where students are spooked from venturing into because it is rumored to have an active KKK chapter.
David Lawson, a young Black man also known to many by Josiah, was a sophomore at HSU studying criminology. Josiah graduated from Rancho Verde High School in Riverside County.
Elijah Chandler, a friend of David who was present at the scene gives a chilling recount to reporters of what happened. What is most alarming is the ways in which Chandler describes how the police handled the situation:
“We were wondering where the ambulance was and why no one was helping us. There were several cops around us. No one helped, no one gave us assistance. The only thing they were focused on was making sure that these people of color were not getting out of control. So I had to fight for my friends life and wait for help that came way too late.”
Chandler said that there was an altercation where two white women and Zoellner were accusing Josiah of stealing a phone. Josiah was even pepper-sprayed before being stabbed.
When asked why he believed the police have not released a mugshot Chandler replied, “To protect their own, like they always do.”
Our local paper the Times-Standard talked with the mother of Josiah. Ms. Lawson relayed to the Times-Standard she was informed that if the authorities can not find more witnesses, Zoellner might be released. Although there are 13 witnesses, none of the witnesses saw Zoellner with the knife.
According to the Times-Standard:
Michelle-Charmaine Lawson said witnesses said they saw the suspect punching her son, but accounts of the incident by authorities to her indicated he was being stabbed with a small knife. The suspect wasn’t punching, he was stabbing my son to death,” she said.
Numerous students who were present at the party have many concerns over the ways in which the police responded to the scene of the stabbing. Students have stated online and on-campus that the police who responded to the 911 call were more active in trying to contain and control the crowd of Black people at the party, than helping the stabbed student who lay bleeding out under a tree in bushes. A cop is said to have had his taser out threatening to tase people.
Students also have questions as to what took the ambulance so long to arrive on scene. Reports are that the scene needed to be cleared by police before the EMT could approach, but I still think more could have been done in a timely manner within police protocol to get Josiah medical attention once police arrived on scene.
This murder is wrong, sick and uncalled for on so many levels. Humboldt State University, the Arcata Police Department and the community surrounding HSU have blood on their hands and there is no denying it.
Humboldt State truly is a beautiful place ducked off within huge Redwood trees and enclosed by the forest. HSU is like a get away while you are a freshman living on campus.
However as you get into your second and third year, you become more aware of university politics and the lack of support for students of color on campus. You also start to venture off campus. The surrounding community of HSU especially Eureka has a drug, homeless and mental health problem which seem to not get much assistance or attention as it should from city officials.
HSU has had this looming problem for decades which is it’s retainment and graduation rates for students of color, or lack thereof.
While the administration at HSU knows that they have institutional failures that they fall extremely short in trying to correct, they still continue recruit the most vulnerable of students from these inner city areas where the first generation student is prevalent.
They sell these students the beauty of Humboldt State without mentioning the dynamics of the mostly all white surrounding community.
Their recruitment efforts in these areas are the ways HSU meets their diversity quota and apply for federal funding. This could be seen in HSU’s most recent goals of recruiting a 22% Hispanic population to qualify for a $4 million dollar STEM grant which they received.
Within these efforts, HSU does not do a good job in bridging the gap between HSU’s students of color they are recruiting and the surrounding community. This was best illustrated last semester, where students of color used the hashtag #POCNORM to share their experiences of racism and bigotry in Humboldt County on Facebook and Twitter.
After my experience at HSU I stand firm in my belief that no kid especially young, Black and coming from a city or the inner city should really be at Humboldt State University if they are not studying something relating to the sciences. The culture shock that students of color experience is rarely mentioned yet very important to note.
This is where I feel HSU is to blame in this crime for their continued recruitment in students of color without thinking of the students best interest but a quota to meet.
Arcata police department who were more concerned with containing what they viewed as unruly Blacks, are to blame for the delayed medical attention Josiah could have received.
The community and city officials are at fault for not trying to bridge the gap between HSU students and the community in more effective ways.
My heart hurts for the pain Josiah’s mother and family is going through and the devastation they feel over their sudden lost. I hope that Ms. Lawson is able to get justice for her son. As of now Zoellner must see a judge and be arranged by April 19th or he will be released from custody. This puzzles me a lot because clearly this was a hate crime and should be addressed as such from those who speak about and handle the case.
Rest in peace David Josiah Lawson.
Video of Elijah Chandler speaking on the incident by KRCR News Channel 7: