Mad River Union
ARCATA – Despite a a claim by National Police Foundation President Jim Burch at an Arcata City Council meeting in August that a report into the investigation into the killing of David Josiah Lawson would be turned over “within weeks,” that hasn’t happened yet.
Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer said her office is as eager to receive the report as is the public, and considers it essential to try to address the concerns about the cty’s response to the homicide.
“We’ve had a lot of oversight on this case,” she said, including two police chiefs. “But the Police Foundation comes from a different perspective. They have insight into best practices of law enforcement.”
On Easter weekend of 2017, Humboldt State University criminology student David Josiah Lawson and his friends attended a house party north of campus. He never returned.
Lawson, 19, was stabbed to death after he and his friends clashed with others at the party over a stolen phone that never was.
The events surrounding the fatal stabbing are lost in a din of contradicting accounts. Earlier this year, a grand jury declined to indict former suspect Kyle Zoellner, of McKinleyville, despite what interim Police Chief Richard Ehle characterized as “unequivocal physical evidence” in his report to District Attorne
grand jury declined to indict former suspect Kyle Zoellner, of McKinleyville, despite what interim Police Chief Richard Ehle characterized as “unequivocal physical evidence” in his report to District Attorney Maggie Fleming, who disagreed with Ehle’s description.
In the time since Lawson’s killing, community members have expressed frustration at the ineffectual nature of the investigation, even disrupting multiple City Council meetings.
Charmaine Lawson, Josiah’s mother, has become an advocate for justice for her son, starting a website to get the word out on her son’s killing, justiceforjosiah.com.
Her response to the failure of the grand jury to bring charges illustrate the community’s frustration at the investigation.
“I was told by the three chiefs of police from APD and a city official that Kyle Zoellner’s DNA is on the knife that was used to murder my son,” she stated on the website. “It is time that Humboldt County residents call out and address the Arcata city officials and Humboldt County DA Maggie Fleming regarding DNA evidence appearing on the knife that was used to murder a young college student. I cannot bring my son back, but we can help take a murderer off the streets. Why should a murderer walk the streets with your loved ones? If he killed once, he will kill again. Do you feel safer as a result of the actions the APD has taken in connection with this case?”
Charmaine Lawson also fiuled a lawsuit against the City of Arcata and its police department, claiming that detectives botched the investigation into her son’s killing.
At a recent city council meeting, one community member said she saw Zoellner at northtown restaurant Szechuan Garden.
“Do you think it makes me feel safe knowing this person is roaming free in the city?” she asked.
Diemer said the city doesn’t view the Police Foundation report as a magic bullet, and anticipates the community response were the city to feel it necessary to redact parts of the report that might jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
“Policing has to be community based,” she said. “They’re hard conversations, but we have to have them.”
It’s uncertain when the report will be released.