The Lawson Report, Part 3: About Arcata, where young student Josiah came to learn – and died

Note: This is the third installment of the National Police Foundation’s report on the death of Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson, and the criminal justice system’s follow-through. So far, no one has been held responsible for his stabbing death. – Ed.

Limitations of this Report

While the City of Arcata and APD provided substantial access to relevant case information, this study was limited, because the homicide of Josiah Lawson continues as an on-going, active investigation. As would be expected, the NPF could not interview potential witnesses or partygoers outside of the first responders who were on scene the morning of April 15, 2017. Additionally, Humboldt State University (HSU) administration and staff members declined to formally respond to requests for an interview, except for the HSU chief of police.

Figure 1: Map of the City of Arcata Sources: Arcata City Limits downloaded from City of Arcata,; map image developed by Bureau of Land Management, Esri, HERE, Garmin, USGS, NGA, EPA, USDA, NPS.

Arcata Background: The City of Arcata and Humboldt State University

The City of Arcata is a rural community located in Humboldt County, on the California coastline, approximately 275 miles north of San Francisco. Humboldt County covers 3,568 square miles of coastline and forest land and has a population of 134,7543. Within Humboldt County, Arcata encompasses 9.1 square miles, with a reported population of approximately 18,000 in 20174. Central 0to the City of Arcata is HSU, one of 23 campuses in the California State University system. With an enrollment of over 6,000 students, the student body represents a significant portion of the City of Arcata’s population5.

2 Full bios of assessment team members can be found in Appendix B: About the Assessment Team.

3 United States Census Bureau. (2017). QuickFacts: Humboldt County, California; Arcata city, California. Retrieved from,arcatacitycalifornia/PST045217

4 Ibid.

5 Humboldt State University. (n.d.). About Humboldt State University. Retrieved from


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