Huffman asks FBI to join Lawson case

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Congressman Jared Huffman has asked the FBI to provide the City of Arcata with experienced homicide detectives to help solve the David Josiah Lawson case.

David Josiah Lawson

“The tragic death of 19-year-old David Josiah Lawson on April 15, 2017 has been devastating to this rural community in my congressional district,,” Huffman wrote in a June 1 letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. “With a small police department, Arcata needs experienced homicide investigators to help solve this case.

In the letter, Huffman gives the FBI director a brief account of the case. Lawson, an HSU student, was stabbed to death during an off-campus party. A 23-year-old McKinleyville man was arrested and charged with murder, but the case was tossed out of court during a preliminary hearing due to a lack of evidence and conflicting accounts by witnesses.

The killing has inflamed racial tensions in Arcata. Lawson was black and, as Huffman writes in his letter, “Prior to the altercation, some in Mr. Zoellner’s party were reported to have used racial slurs.”

Charmaine Lawson, the victim’s mother, has filed a claim against the City of Arcata and has accused Arcata Police of bungling the case. Zoellner has also filed a claim against the city, alleging wrongful imprisonment and defamation.

“The case has become particularly divisive in the community, and tensions are likely to persist or grow the longer the case goes unsolved,” Huffman wrote. “I ask that your department consider providing the Arcata Police Department with experienced homicide detectives and other resources to help resolve the David Josiah Lawson case.”