January 15, 2018 marked nine months since 19-year-old David Josiah Lawson’s life was cut short from a tragic act of violence in Arcata, CA.
A Sophomore at Humboldt State University from Perris, CA, Lawson was studying Criminology (he might have also been in the process of switching his major to Psychology) when he died after suffering multiple stab wounds at an off-campus party the early morning of April 15, 2017.
The Arcata Police Department says the Department of Justice has received new, forensic software that they will use in Lawson’s murder investigation.
In an interview with the local news station earlier this week, Lawson family Attorney Shelley Mack said:
“Apparently there’s a new software that was just put into place at the State DOJ forensic lab that will help us do some DNA de-convolution on some of the pieces of forensic evidence,” (KRCRTV).
During the interview Mack also said that now, results will be available later than expected, especially since Lawson’s case is not currently in the trial process.
The news of forensic software comes after Lawson’s mother delivered her keynote speech at the NAACP Martin Luther King Day event Monday.
“When I was asked to speak I felt very honored, because it’s Martin Luther King Day, but yesterday I decided I was not going to speak because I did not think I was strong enough,” Ms. Lawson said during her speech.
She then described a text message she received from a close friend, that helped to restore her strength.
“I am going to talk about my son, if that’s ok.”
Lawson was quite the athlete, involving himself in sports like soccer, baseball, basketball, football, swimming as well as track & field throughout his life. He even qualified for the Junior Olympics in high school.
“The theme of the event is ‘together, we rise.’ Boy did my child rise up! He rose up above incarceration, from not being a teenage father. Drugs, gangs–my son did not participate in any of those things.”
Lawson’s mother described the honors and awards Lawson received for his academic excellence while playing sports.
“He was invited to the early academic program at UC Riverside, The National High School Scholars, African-American achievements for academic excellence while playing sports–and sometimes that is not easy–most improved in AP class, Chief Bernard Park’s 8th District Scholarship recipient, Delta Sigma Kappa Alpha [scholarship award] and so many more,” Ms. Lawson detailed. “He was an amazing son, an awesome son.”
Her speech began to take on a more serious tone towards the end, as she outlined the lack of communication from APD.
“The congressman spoke earlier, he said he was going to speak truth and sometimes the truth hurts. But we must accept it and try to fix it. The truth might hurt right now but I am going to speak, because it is my child that I lost.”
She spoke in a tone filled with sadness, confusion and disappointment about the lack of progress in her son’s case.
“If I don’t pick up the phone and call APD, they don’t call me. I come to this town every single month, to fight for my son, I take time out and walk the Plaza, meet the business owners, talk to the homeless community, because that’s what my son would want me to do and we have a police department that does not care. I’m sorry but I have to speak the truth. Why is my son’s life not important APD? My son has been dead nine months and still, his murderer walks free. No answers,” she said.
Lawson’s mother said she holds city and school officials responsible for the lack of justice that her son and other people are receiving in Humboldt County and called for Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer to replace APD Chief Tom Chapman.
“People are disappearing in Humboldt County, murdered, attacked, in your town and no one is being held accountable, well APD, city council members, District Attorney Maggie Fleming, HSU president Lisa Rossbacher, I’m holding you responsible. How can we rise up together if we don’t feel supported, if we don’t feel safe? I am not just talking about people of color, I am talking about everyone.”
Karen Diemer provided the following statement in response:
“The investigation is open and active. The Police Department is working through a defined investigative strategy based on all the physical evidence and witness statements, much of which has been developed/obtained after the preliminary hearing. Our focus is on providing the strongest case possible. In order to do so we must wait for all the evidence to be processed through the Department of Justice and follow up on any leads generated from the results. This can be a lengthy process. While it is critical to maintain confidentiality during a criminal investigation the combination of time and investigative privacy can be frustrating as the community waits to bring resolution and justice to this senseless act of violence. I appreciate the patience and allowing the time for the thoroughness that this investigation needs and deserves and will continue to seek ways to support the family and the community as we simultaneously grieve and move through the investigation.”
President of HSU’s Marketing and Communications Frank Whitlatch provided the following statement on behalf of HSU:
“HSU continues to do all we can to support the family and friends of Josiah, and we’re providing any assistance that Arcata Police requests as part of their investigation,” Whitlatch wrote in an email to the Times-Standard. “Like so many in our community, we were heartbroken by what happened and we want to see justice done.” (Times-Standard)
There is a $55,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of those responsible for Lawson’s death. Anyone with information should call the Arcata Police Department at 707-822-2428.