Lawson update: Council can’t talk, meetings set, new police chief sought

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

ARCATA – It’s been 13 months since David Josiah Lawson, 19, was stabbed to death in Arcata, but the case is still unsolved. The Arcata City Council was reminded of this during public comments at its May 16 meeting, with several speakers pleading with council members to rehire former FBI investigator Tom Parker and solve the case.

David Josiah Lawson

In the past, the council often responded to such pleas with updates on the status of the case and reassurances that the Arcata Police are actively investigating the killing, which took placed April 15, 2017.

But now the council is nearly mum on the topic due to pending litigation.

“I just want to acknowledge some of the comments that were made in regard to the David Lawson case,” Arcata Mayor Sofia Pereira said at the conclusion of the public comment portion of the May 16 meeting. “As you probably already know, the council and staff can no longer talk publicly about the investigation because it is now in litigation and is referred to outside attorney/counsel. And also, as you recall, the council did authorize additional resources to be brought to this case and staff is currently working to bring those resources in.”
On behalf of Lawson’s mother, Charmaine Lawson, attorney Shelley Mack filed a claim in April against the City of Arcata seeking $500,000 for emotional distress and anxiety she suffered due to APD’s “negligent” investigation. The claim accuses APD of bungling the case.

Also in April, Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman resigned. Before that resignation, former FBI Special Agent Tom Parker, who had volunteered to work on the Lawson case, resigned, and then slammed the City of Arcata, alleging that the case was bungled.

The city will hold a public meeting on the process for hiring a new police chief on Wednesday, May 30 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 736 F St. 


Today, May 23, the Union received the following press release from the Justice for Josiah:

On Thursday, May 24, 2018, 5:30-7 pm, at the D Street Community [sic] Center, 1399 D St., in Arcata, Charmaine Lawson and dozens of her supporters will focus on how they will work on bringing back retired FBI investigator Tom Parker to lead the investigation of Josiah Lawson’s murder, rather than relying on the City of Arcata’s limited skill.

“After tolerating over a year of the city’s inaction, I no longer trust that Arcata & Humboldt public officials care enough about my son and my family to work on my son’s case with the level of urgency it deserves,” states Charmaine Lawson. “Investigator Tom Parker has extensive experience in these kinds of cases and stated that he could find my son’s murderer in just a few weeks.”

Charmaine Lawson and her supporters invited Karen Diemer, Arcata City Manager, to attend the meeting in order to offer the City one more opportunity to agree to Investigator Parker’s involvement. Most of the meeting will be spent discussing how the community will work on increasing the pace and urgency of the investigation.

“How long must we tolerate the racially-biased treatment the Lawson family has had to tolerate?” says Zera Starchild, a member of the Humboldt County NAACP and member of Charmaine Lawson’s support committee.  “We won’t sit idly by and witness the City of Arcata’s and Humboldt County’s lack of motivation to solve this case because the life taken was that of a young Black man.”

Charmaine Lawson states: “It’s time for us to take this matter into our own hands. My son Josiah and family deserve justice, and Humboldt County just hasn’t given it to us.”

Renee Saucedo, long-time racial justice advocate, will facilitate the May 24th meeting.

The City of Arcata submitted this press release:

City of Arcata

ARCATA – The City of Arcata is currently in the process of recruiting a new chief of police, and is encouraging the public to share input on what qualifications the city should consider when narrowing down potential candidates.

On Wednesday, May 30, the City of Arcata will be hosting a public forum where community members will have the opportunity to discuss what type of candidates should be sought to lead Arcata’s police department.

The forum will be hosted by the City of Arcata and by Joel Bryden,  who is a vice president at Bob Murray & Associates, the national recruiting firm the city has hired to help conduct the search.

“Public input is crucial to selecting the best individual to lead Arcata’s Police Department. I encourage all interested residents to attend the upcoming forum to share their thoughts on the characteristics and professional background they feel are most important when selecting a new chief,” said Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer.

In addition, the city is currently completing a full law enforcement background check on the top candidate for an interim chief of police, and expects to have an interim chief in place by June. Lieutenant Bart Silvers, who has served the Arcata Police Department for 16 years, is now serving as acting chief of police until an interim chief is named. The interim chief will serve until a new permanent chief of police is hired.

The public forum regarding Arcata’s new permanent police chief will take place on Wednesday, May 30 at 6:30 p.m. in City Council Chamber at City Hall, 736 F St. in Arcata. All interested community members are encouraged to attend.

For more information, call (707) 822-5953.


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