Arcata, Ca. It has now been ten months since David Josiah Lawson, a sophomore at Humboldt State University, was stabbed multiple times at an off-campus party Easter weekend 2017.
Lawson’s mother makes the 12-hour commute from Riverside to Humboldt County every month, seeking justice for her son.
Last Friday Feb. 16 after a vigil on Arcata’s Plaza for Lawson, his mother met with Arcata’s City Manager Karen Diemer, Mayor Sofia Pereira and members from the Eureka NAACP legal redress committee. A few community members were also present.
“This is the reality for a lot people of what happened. I know a student who saw Josiah before he was attacked and saw three girls jump his girlfriend. She filed a police report, clearly stating that she saw the attack and for the D.A’s office to come back that it was mutually combative–it made her and the others feel that, this is just institutional racism, there is no way we are going to get any justice here,” a NAACP legal redress committee member stated.
In August 2017, Lawson’s mother presented the city council a petition with over 1,000 signatures and asked the council to put her son on their meeting agenda. She wanted the city council to discuss concerns of student safety and give updates into her son’s case–a move to improve transparency from APD to local media outlets.
The city council did not agree to put Lawson on the meeting agenda.
Only after HSU students disrupted the city council meeting and demanded they listen to the concern of Lawson’s mother, did the city agree to hold six public sessions to discuss issues of student safety and give updates into Lawson’s case.
After four sessions, these forums were abruptly shut down.
“When you saw that contentiousness at the last D street meeting, I hope you understand that some of that anger and frustration that the kids are feeling are coming from that alternative narrative that is not the official story; that the police did everything they could, that the city did everything they could. The story that I heard through the grapevine, was that the ambulance drove around a few times and did not enter until they were told it was safe. And the only reason they thought it was unsafe, was because they were afraid. I think there is a lot to talk about, without even touching the case.”
The city agreed to hold community forums again to discuss issues and concerns but agreed with Ms. Lawson that to protect the integrity of the case, there will be no more public updates.
Diemer and Pereira also stated they will reach out to people of color/organizations in the community who might be interested in helping to facilitate or provide ideas so the meetings will be effective for all parties–including students who always bear the brunt of sharing the pain of their lived experiences, without seeing much concrete change afterwards.
It was also mentioned in the meeting how police who responded the night of Lawson’s stabbing, keep leaving the department.
Eric Losey who started his recent promotion of detective the night Lawson was killed, has left to “further his education at theology school” as reported by APD. In addition, Krystle Arminio who was one of the first cops to arrive to the scene left APD recently. Both testified during the preliminary hearing before suspect Kyle Zoellner was released.
“Things don’t look too good because a lot of people are fleeing the scene it looks like. [Those] who had huge responsibilities in handling the case. It doesn’t look like it is being handled the best from the outside looking in.”- HSU graduate and friend of Lawson’s.
Although the Arcata Police Department and the City of Arcata send out press releases stating they are working to do everything they can, Lawson’s mother, as well as members in the local community, are slowly starting to lose good faith in city officials.
“As much as I have that level of respect for you guys, I am losing respect for you guys,” Ms. Lawson said during the meeting.
Ms. Lawson was visibly upset as she spoke to two women that she says have been protecting APD and the girls that APD failed to apprehend the night of her son’s murder.
“All I know is, yesterday marked ten months. This is just unacceptable. APD is not doing their job, they are not. I keep coming here every single month and there is nothing, absolutely nothing to report. I keep hearing from you Karen Diemer, that we are further than we were, that is not true. The press release you guys put out the other day, was a bunch of bullshit. It was a bunch of crap. I know you have to protect the city, but you guys are covering for APD.”
Ms. Lawson left the meeting after speaking and Diemer continued to defend the police department.
In addition to pay increases for APD approved by Arcata’s city council a few months ago, Todd Dockweiler APD’s only detective, was promoted recently to Lieutenant–in the midst of an unsolved student murder, accusations of incompetence and racism by the department and the pain and suffering of Lawson’s mother and family.