donate or subscribe
Follow Us Twitter Facebook

Arcata police chief and other city officials hold press conference with mother of slain Humboldt State student

July 12, 2017

by Tina Sampay

Almost three months have passed since the stabbing death of Humboldt State University student David Josiah Lawson, and no one is currently in custody for his murder.

At the press conference updating the public on the investigation into the murder of Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson are civil rights attorney Shelley Mack, Arcata City Manager Karen Deemer, Elijah Chandler, Josiah’s friend who tried to save him, APD Chief Tom Chapman, Mayor Susan Ornelas and City Council Member Sofia Pereira. Elijah is a member of the Brothers United cultural club at HSU; Josiah was the president. Josiah’s mother, Charmaine Michelle Lawson, is at the mic. – Photo: Tina Sampay

The Arcata Police Department and other Arcata city officials held a press conference Friday, June 30, 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.

Nineteen-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, Calif., at the scene.

After five days of preliminary hearings Zoellner was released May 5, 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 made public because of 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, Tom Chapman, Arcata police chief, 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.

Almost three months have passed since the stabbing death of Humboldt State University student David Josiah Lawson, and no one is currently in custody for his murder.

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 said 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.

“Our intent is to fit that into a bigger picture of putting people in location. Individuals who may not have seen what occurred but are a piece of a puzzle we are trying to piece together.”

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.

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.

“Any arrest made has to be supported by probable cause. The facts and the circumstances I don’t think were there in this case at that time.”

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.

“It has been over two months, it has been way too long. As I stated before, I am going to continue to be here and press Chief Chapman and the District Attorney’s Office so that this does not become a cold case.”

Ms. Lawson mentioned that she was in agreement with the online petition 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 was asked how she felt the investigation was going. “It has been over two months, it has been way too long. As I stated before, I am going to continue to be here and press Chief Chapman and the District Attorney’s Office so that this does not become a cold case.”

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.”

Slauson Girl’s blog, where this story first appeared, describes life through the eyes of Tina Sampay, 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 of Humboldt State University 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. Email her at slausongirl92@gmail.com.

One thought on “Arcata police chief and other city officials hold press conference with mother of slain Humboldt State student

Leave a Reply

BayView Classifieds - ads, opportunities, announcements