Almost three months has passed since the stabbing death of Humboldt State University student David Josiah Lawson and no one is currently in custody for his murder. The Arcata Police Department and Arcata City Officials held a press conference Friday, June 30, 2017 on HSU’s quad.
The mother of Lawson was also in attendance along with Shelley Mack of Martin & Mack, a local civil rights firm in Arcata, California. Mack is serving as a liaison for Lawson family attorney Justin Sanders.
19-year old Lawson was stabbed multiple times at an off campus party April 15, 2017 and died as a result of his injuries. Police arrested 23-year old Kyle Zoellner, a resident of Mckinleyville, CA at the scene. After five days of preliminary hearings Zoellner was released May 5, 2017, due to a lack of physical evidence in a ruling by Eureka Judge Dale Reinholtsen.
The press conference was a chance for APD to update the public on the investigation and for media to ask questions.
It is important to note that specific details of an active murder investigation are not public knowledge because it runs the risk of compromising the investigation.However, it is the duty of the police department to make the public feel assured that their safety is not at risk when someone has been murdered and the killer is not in custody.
Referring to notes in hand, Chapman stated the case continues to be active and ongoing. He also relayed that although Zoellner was released, he could still be recharged [if sufficient evidence was ever revealed].
Chapman often turned down questions saying he could not get into specifics. Overall, he offered very little assurance that Lawson’s murder was any closer to being solved or that students of color were safe in Arcata.
Some of the questions posed to Chapman during the press conference were about the outside investigators he stated were involved with Lawson’s murder investigation.
He was also asked to specify how local sister agencies were assisting APD in the investigation and who was actively involved.
His response was that the duties of local agencies in the investigation are “task specific” and that he could not state publicly who the outside investigators were. Chapman also would not state publicly what items APD sent off to the DOJ for testing but that they were waiting for the results of forensic analysis from the department.
Chapman stressed the importance of witnesses coming forward–party attendees or anyone who may have information.
“We know there were people at the party that have not come forward. Perhaps they were there, and they didn’t see anything and don’t think it is necessary to come forward. I adamantly disagree with that,” Chapman stated.
He also mentioned the $21,000 reward being offered for information in Lawson’s murder. The reward was created through donations from community members.When asked if there was any significant lead or testimony that would keep this case from going cold, Chapman responded, “it is all relevant.”
Another question posed to Chapman was about the girls who accompanied Zoellner’s girlfriend to the party and why they were not arrested as suspects in Lawson’s murder.
Chapman proceeded to back away from the mic at one point and denied any further questions. Lawson’s mother continued the press conference.
“I want to express my gratitude and thanks to the donors and I will answer any questions,” Charmaine Michelle Lawson said to reporters. Ms. Lawson was asked how she felt the investigation was going.
Ms. Lawson mentioned that she was in agreeance with the online petition started, asking for the DOJ to take over the investigation of her son’s murder.
“If outside agencies are needed, and I believe that they are, APD is willing to accept the help. That is something we spoke on yesterday and we are looking to get that as soon as possible.”
Ms. Lawson expressed how she relayed to Chief Chapman that she needed him to keep the public updated with what was going on.
“Students will be back to school in a month and a half. I need for them to be safe. My son was not safe. I do not want this to happen to any other student, or anyone else for that matter. I will continue to be here for my son but to also make sure that the community is safe.”