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Did police and EMT response contribute to Humboldt State student’s death?

April 27, 2017

David Josiah Lawson

by Slauson Girl

Saturday morning, April 15, Humboldt State University student David Lawson was stabbed at an off-campus party and died as a result of his injuries. The police have yet to release a mugshot of the suspect.

According to the Times-Standard: “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. Students are spooked from venturing into the town, because it is rumored to have an active KKK chapter.

David Lawson, a young Black man also known to many as Josiah, was a sophomore at HSU studying criminology. Josiah had graduated from Rancho Verde High School in Riverside County.

Saturday morning, April 15, Humboldt State University student David Lawson was stabbed at an off-campus party and died as a result of his injuries.

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 friend’s life and wait for help that came way too late.”

“Elijah Chandler, a geology junior at Humboldt State University, was kneeling in a pool of blood, trying to save the life of his close friend and fellow student David Josiah Lawson,” begins an April 26 story in the Mad River Union. “Trained in first aid, Chandler stanched his friend’s knife wounds with his T-shirt and administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He and Lawson’s girlfriend, who had been stabbed at least twice on her left arm, struggled in vain for some 15 minutes or more before EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) arrived. Chandler is convinced that his 19-year-old schoolmate’s life could have been saved if EMT aid had been timely, professional and thorough. Instead, he alleges, the medical care was hesitant, halfhearted and sketchy because, in his judgment, the EMTs were white and Lawson was Black.” Read the gripping account of a 70-minute interview with Elijah at http://www.madriverunion.com/eyewitness-alleges-police-emt-racism-2/.

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.”

What is most alarming is the ways in which Chandler describes how the police handled the situation.

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 cannot 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 tucked among huge redwood trees and enclosed by the forest. HSU is like a getaway 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 the assistance or attention they should from city officials.

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.

HSU has had a looming problem for decades with retention 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 to recruit the most vulnerable of students from 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 to apply for federal funding. This can be seen in HSU’s most recent goal of recruiting a 22 percent Hispanic population to qualify for a $4 million STEM grant, which they received.

David Josiah Lawson’s mother, Michelle-Charmaine Lawson, speaks at a memorial service held at HSU on April 20. Josiah was president of Brothers United (BU), an official campus organization.

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 of students of color without thinking of the students’ best interests but rather a quota to meet.

Arcata police, 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.

HSU does not do a good job in bridging the gap between HSU’s students of color they are recruiting and the surrounding community.

It angers me to know that a young Black man was most likely trying to escape the stressors of his hometown through college and this happens.

My heart hurts for the pain Josiah’s mother and family is going through and the devastation they feel over their sudden loss. I hope that Ms. Lawson is able to get justice for her son.

Police release killer’s bloody mug shot

While Kyle Zoellner pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, he also admitted he was “involved in a physical fight with the victim.”

Most people and even the jury will look at the mugshot of Zoellner and form a conclusion of self-defense. According to accounts that I heard from students who were there, Zoellner was jumped because he was trying to leave the scene into a waiting car after he stabbed Josiah. I heard this before the mugshot was even released, which would explain his injuries.

The mugshot and how Zoellner looked once police arrived to the scene will most likely be big factors in this case and we will see how stereotypes play into self-defense pleas.

Every time I hear accounts of what happened that night from people who were there, it is always Zoellner and “two white girls” as the aggressors. They were accusing Josiah of stealing a phone as he attempted to exit the party. One of these girls most likely was the one who pepper-sprayed Josiah prior to him being stabbed by Zoellner.

Whatever truly happened that night leading up to Josiah’s death, one fact alone is certain: Josiah was pepper-sprayed before he was stabbed. This means that he could not have been a threat which would justify a self-defense claim. This, I believe, will be a key factor for the prosecution.

Arcata councilwoman apologizes for failing Humboldt State’s students of color

This past Wednesday I attended Arcata’s city council meeting. I was told that at this council meeting, they were going to address the police response time to the off-campus party where Humboldt State University student David Lawson, was stabbed and murdered this past weekend.

I was literally blown away at the letter read by Councilwoman Sofia Pereira.

She asked for a moment of silence for slain HSU student David Lawson and she then proceeded to read a letter. Within this letter she stated: “We cannot continue to ignore the systemic and cultural racism that exists in our community. While we can say we’ve been working on issues of equity in our community, we as a community failed Josiah Lawson and other students of color, who have stated over and over that they do not feel safe and welcomed here.”

To say that I was surprised by her words would be an understatement. I was blown away because I was not expecting anything like this to be mentioned when I sat down in this meeting.

“We cannot continue to ignore the systemic and cultural racism that exists in our community. While we can say we’ve been working on issues of equity in our community, we as a community failed Josiah Lawson and other students of color, who have stated over and over that they do not feel safe and welcomed here.”

Pereira continued, stating that following the homicide she sat in many meetings with HSU students and that: “I heard first-hand the fear that students of color have about local racism and for their safety off-campus; they know and we know that racial inequities continue to exist. The students expressed concerns that I share, that race played a role in the homicide.”

David Josiah Lawson, his mother and sister

Pereira said that students expressed concern over the response time and the priorities of the first responders who arrived on scene.

“It is important to me that our students of color feel safe and protected. I will ensure that once the criminal investigation is complete that we review the actions of our response and identify which actions have led to these concerns.”

“I deeply apologize for Arcata’s failure to oppose racism openly and aggressively.”

Pereira closed her letter by stating that her words don’t feel like they are enough because they are not. She spoke of taking action; however, no insight into the specifics of the actions that would be taken was mentioned.

Once Pereira concluded her letter we had a moment of silence for Lawson and City of Arcata Mayor Susan Ornelas continued with the day’s agenda.

As I walked away from that meeting I remember saying “wow” to myself. This is how taken aback I was.

I was not at all however surprised that the city could come to such a conclusion. I was only surprised that the city would take such responsibility, publicly. To say that the city has failed Humboldt State University students of color as well as going so far as to say that they too believe that the murder of Lawson was a racially motivated crime is major.

In meetings organized by the director of the academic centers at HSU, students have expressed not feeling safe in town and shared their experiences of racism to City Council members and the Police Department prior to Lawson’s murder. This is what Pereira is most likely alluding to when she states that the city has failed Lawson and other students of color who have “stated over and over that they do not feel safe and welcome here.”

To say that the city has failed Humboldt State University students of color as well as going so far as to say that they too believe that the murder of Lawson was a racially motivated crime is major.

If the city is willing to admit that they have failed the students, why does Humboldt State continue to market themselves as this inclusive space that is welcoming and understanding of various cultures and people?

The only thing HSU is inclusive of is taking students of color’s money and trying to meet a racial quota to apply for federal funds.

Rest in peace, David Josiah Lawson.

Slauson Girl’s blog, where this story first appeared, describes life through the eyes of a girl born and raised in South Central, Los Angeles. She has received multiple awards including first place in the Society of Professional Journalists competition for her weekly column, Slauson Girl Speaks. A recent graduate with a degree in Critical Race and Gender Studies and a minor in Journalism, she writes about current events, pop culture, racism, Hip-Hop, economics and history.

21 thoughts on “Did police and EMT response contribute to Humboldt State student’s death?

  1. Tom foley

    This is said. But what must be said is that all first reponders are trained in our safety first, the patient 2nd. Tbay saves lives, unfortunately the life of an emt was last in nyc when a patient stole an ambulance and ran her over. The scene may not have been safe for the emts to go in to thus contributing to the delay. I know that this must have been a very emotional scene as a friend lay dieing on the ground. But as a first responder my self whoes been to many scenes where there are crowds, they have not been helpful if not more that they interupt and make things worse, even with good intentions. Thats what probably happened here from the information ive read from the emts part.

    Reply
  2. Jim

    As the days go by, the more this article becomes comical.

    Terrible journalism. Absolutely terrible.

    Reply
  3. Zahid Hasan

    Every business has to deal with hundreds of transactions in a single day and all the work is not possible manually. Most of them use applications which are designed to provide accuracy and fast results with even the most complex of calculations.

    Reply

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