Mother of murdered African-American Humboldt student fights for justice

On Wednesday morning, CSU Board of Trustees discussed the murder of African American student, David Josiah Lawson. Lawson was a student from Riverside, CA who was murdered at a Humboldt State party on April 15, 2017. 

An article from the California Faculty Association explained that Lawson’s mother, along with other Faculty and Students intention at the meeting is to urge the CSU Board of Trustees to take action and “act on the unsolved case”.

The CFA gave more insight on to what exactly happened the night of the murder. Lawson, a 19-year-old Criminology and Justice Studies major, was attending a party on Easter Weekend with his girlfriend and other friends, when he was stabbed. The local police were said to respond to the call, but mainly focused on crowd control, instead of assisting Lawson. 

The party was located in the neighborhood of Arcata, a mostly white community. It has been over a year since the murder happened, and the case still remains open. There are no known suspects as of now.

The CFA explains this was not the only irresolvable murder at Humboldt State. In 2001, a student named Corey S. Clark was shot at an apartment in Eureka. No suspect or motive was found. 

On Wednesday morning, Lawson’s mother, Michelle Charmaine-Lawson spoke in front of the Board of Trustees members, wearing a “Justice for Josiah” t-shirt, with friends and family members standing behind her. She called on the board for action. “My son was 19 years old when he was viciously murdered on April 15th at an off campus party in Arcata. What are you doing to implement changes between the CSU system?” Lawson questioned. 

She called on the President of Humboldt State directly. “Citizens and my family have expressed deep concerns, demanding that you act immediately on the behalf of students of color. We demand parents and safety checklist as part of the recruitment process.” Lawson said. 

Lawson then addressed the campus police and the town of Arcata. “What are the procedures and training processes for campus police involved in an off campus event related to the students?” Lawson asked. “Has Arcata updated their policies to protect students?”

Lawson stressed she wanted a change in a safe environment for students of color to be able to learn. She also called for more Professors of color to be in positions of leadership roles. “Humboldt county is not a welcoming place for students of color” Lawson said. “It’s going to be fifteen months on Saturday September 15th, since I lost my son” Lawson proclaimed, holding back tears. “His murder still remains unsolved.”

Lawson continues on to address the issue. “There is a systematic racism in Humboldt county that has been swept underneath the rug by Humboldt State University and the Arcata Police department for decades”.

Megan Haap, a Senior year Hutchins major, was shocked to learn the murder has not yet been solved. “It’s very sad to hear that Humboldt State and the Arcata neighborhood has not much of an effort to resolve the murder” Haap said. “I’ve heard of many fights happening off campus hear at Sonoma, and I would hope our University and the Rohnert Park police would do everything they could to ensure students safety if something as terrible as that happened here.”

David Dougherty, the Chief of Police at Sonoma State explained who would be responsible with dealing with incidents off campus. “The law enforcement agency having primary jurisdiction over the location of the crime would generally be responsible for the response and investigation. We do enjoy a collaborative relationship with other agencies and work together as/if/when needed.”

Dougherty also explained the University’s policy. “UPD shares concurrent jurisdiction on adjacent streets/areas surrounding University properties and UPD is visible in these areas in an effort to prevent crime and promote the safety of students, faculty and staff. The agency having primary jurisdiction over these areas is generally responsible for the response and investigation” Dougherty said. 

Lawson chokes through tears at the end of her speech. “My son was smart,” Lawson said. “My son was compassionate. He was giving, ambitious, a leader. He was driven to succeed. My beloved son was destined for greatness”.