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.
43 Black Men And Boys Killed By Police
1. Anthony Lamar Smith, 24Source:Getty 1 of 46
2. Ramarley Graham, 18Source:Getty 2 of 46
3. Manuel Loggins Jr., 31Source:Getty 3 of 46
4. Trayvon Martin, 17Source:Getty 4 of 46
5. Wendell Allen, 20Source:Getty 5 of 46
6. Kendrec McDade, 19Source:Getty 6 of 46
7. Larry Jackson Jr., 32Source:Getty 7 of 46
8. Jonathan Ferrell, 24Source:Getty 8 of 46
9. Jordan Baker, 26Source:Getty 9 of 46
10. Victor White lll, 22Source:Getty 10 of 46
11. Dontre Hamilton, 31Source:Getty 11 of 46
12. Eric Garner, 43Source:Getty 12 of 46
13. John Crawford lll, 22Source:Getty 13 of 46
14. Michael Brown, 18Source:Getty 14 of 46
15. Ezell Ford, 25Source:Getty 15 of 46
16. Dante Parker, 36Source:Getty 16 of 46
17. Kajieme Powell, 25Source:Getty 17 of 46
18. Laquan McDonald, 17Source:Getty 18 of 46
19. Akai Gurley, 28Source:Getty 19 of 46
20. Tamir Rice, 12Source:Getty 20 of 46
21. Rumain Brisbon, 34Source:Getty 21 of 46
22. Jerame Reid, 36Source:Getty 22 of 46
23. Charly Keunang, 43Source:Getty 23 of 46
24. Tony Robinson, 19Source:Getty 24 of 46
25. Walter Scott, 50Source:Getty 25 of 46
26. Freddie Gray, 25Source:Getty 26 of 46
27. Brendon Glenn, 29Source:Getty 27 of 46
28. Samuel DuBose, 43Source:Getty 28 of 46
29. Christian Taylor, 19Source:Getty 29 of 46
30. Jamar Clark, 24Source:Getty 30 of 46
31. Mario Woods, 26Source:Getty 31 of 46
32. Quintonio LeGrier, 19Source:Getty 32 of 46
33. Gregory Gunn, 58Source:Getty 33 of 46
34. Akiel Denkins, 24Source:Getty 34 of 46
35. Alton Sterling, 37Source:Getty 35 of 46
36. Philando Castile, 32Source:Getty 36 of 46
37. Terrence Sterling, 31Source:Getty 37 of 46
38. Terence Crutcher, 40Source:Getty 38 of 46
39. Keith Lamont Scott, 43Source:Getty 39 of 46
40. Alfred Olango, 38Source:Getty 40 of 46
41. Jordan Edwards, 15Source:Getty 41 of 46
42. Stephon Clark, 2242 of 46
43. Danny Ray Thomas, 3443 of 46
44. DeJuan Guillory, 2744 of 46
45. DeJuan Guillory, 2745 of 46
46. DeJuan Guillory, 2746 of 46