Humboldt State University students are leading protests for their slain classmate, David Josiah Lawson, a promising 19-year-old African-American sophomore whose stabbing death last April sparked outrage and heightened racial tensions in Arcata, California.
The students’ 12 days of action—each day marking a month that Lawson’s slaying has gone unsolved—began last week. A #JusticeForJosiah campaign has been launched ahead of the one-year anniversary of Lawson’s tragic death on April 15, 2017. Protesters are frustrated over how the student’s homicide was handled by the Arcata Police Department, city government and HSU officials, the North Coast Journal, a Humboldt County newspaper, reported Thursday.
Lawson died after two stab wounds in the early morning on April 15 of last year. Witnesses pointed police to 23-year-old Kyle Zoellner, who is White. Authorities arrested Zoellner on suspicion of murder, but a judge ordered his release from custody last May after a two-week court hearing and testimonies from several witnesses. One of Lawson’s friends reportedly alleged that racial bias hindered efforts to rush Lawson to a hospital. An allegation about Zoellner’s girlfriend having hurled a racial slur and a death wish at Lawson were also made.
Students believe that race played a factor in the treatment of Lawson’s senseless murder, a tragedy that has prompted more concerns over the safety of people of color in Arcata. As protesters wait for officials and authorities to provide answers, they are preparing for a planned celebration of life for Lawson at the D Street Community Center in Arcata on Sunday (April 15).
The HSU community, hoping to get support from prominent civil rights letters and national attention about the teen’s death, have rallied behind Lawson’s mother, Charmaine Lawson. The past year has left Lawson’s mother with pain, grief, unanswered questions and shock over authorities’ handling of her son’s case.
“This tough journey has been filled with disappointments, from the lack of justification for the first responders’ actions, the delay in receiving the autopsy report, the police report that I have still not seen, the dwindling communication from the Arcata Police Department and the lack of availability from the HSU president,” Lawson’s mother wrote in a letter titled, “Why Doesn’t My Son’s Life Matter Enough?” submitted to the North Coast Journal on April 9. “What I’ve learned through my son’s murder is that if policies and procedures were followed, I don’t believe I would be living this terrible nightmare.”
Witnesses felt that racial discrimination was at play when first responders delayed providing aid to Lawson at the scene, Lawson’s mother said. Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman had confessed that a “defibrillator used by his first responders was slow to function because it was not fully charged,” she said. The suspect was placed safely in a police vehicle while her son continued to bleed to death, she also said.
Lawson’s letter and the latest student protests come as Chapman had abruptly resigned on April 10. An ex-FBI agent, Tom Parker, who had led an investigation of the Rodney King beating, had also recently exited Lawson’s case after volunteering as a consultant.
It’s unclear if the Justice Department will become involved in Lawson’s case. A GoFundMe page had been launched for Lawson.
47 Black Men And Boys Killed By Police
1. Botham Shem Jean, 261 of 47
2. Antwon Rose Jr., 172 of 47
3. Robert Lawrence White, 413 of 47
4. Anthony Lamar Smith, 24Source:Getty 4 of 47
5. Ramarley Graham, 18Source:Getty 5 of 47
6. Manuel Loggins Jr., 31Source:Getty 6 of 47
7. Trayvon Martin, 17Source:Getty 7 of 47
8. Wendell Allen, 20Source:Getty 8 of 47
9. Kendrec McDade, 19Source:Getty 9 of 47
10. Larry Jackson Jr., 32Source:Getty 10 of 47
11. Jonathan Ferrell, 24Source:Getty 11 of 47
12. Jordan Baker, 26Source:Getty 12 of 47
13. Victor White lll, 22Source:Getty 13 of 47
14. Dontre Hamilton, 31Source:Getty 14 of 47
15. Eric Garner, 43Source:Getty 15 of 47
16. John Crawford lll, 22Source:Getty 16 of 47
17. Michael Brown, 18Source:Getty 17 of 47
18. Ezell Ford, 25Source:Getty 18 of 47
19. Dante Parker, 36Source:Getty 19 of 47
20. Kajieme Powell, 25Source:Getty 20 of 47
21. Laquan McDonald, 17Source:Getty 21 of 47
22. Akai Gurley, 28Source:Getty 22 of 47
23. Tamir Rice, 12Source:Getty 23 of 47
24. Rumain Brisbon, 34Source:Getty 24 of 47
25. Jerame Reid, 36Source:Getty 25 of 47
26. Charly Keunang, 43Source:Getty 26 of 47
27. Tony Robinson, 19Source:Getty 27 of 47
28. Walter Scott, 50Source:Getty 28 of 47
29. Freddie Gray, 25Source:Getty 29 of 47
30. Brendon Glenn, 29Source:Getty 30 of 47
31. Samuel DuBose, 43Source:Getty 31 of 47
32. Christian Taylor, 19Source:Getty 32 of 47
33. Jamar Clark, 24Source:Getty 33 of 47
34. Mario Woods, 26Source:Getty 34 of 47
35. Quintonio LeGrier, 19Source:Getty 35 of 47
36. Gregory Gunn, 58Source:Getty 36 of 47
37. Akiel Denkins, 24Source:Getty 37 of 47
38. Alton Sterling, 37Source:Getty 38 of 47
39. Philando Castile, 32Source:Getty 39 of 47
40. Terrence Sterling, 31Source:Getty 40 of 47
41. Terence Crutcher, 40Source:Getty 41 of 47
42. Keith Lamont Scott, 43Source:Getty 42 of 47
43. Alfred Olango, 38Source:Getty 43 of 47
44. Jordan Edwards, 15Source:Getty 44 of 47
45. Stephon Clark, 2245 of 47
46. Danny Ray Thomas, 3446 of 47
47. DeJuan Guillory, 2747 of 47
Justice For Josiah: HSU Students Lead Powerful Protests For Slain Black Classmate was originally published on newsone.com