With Foundation Report Still Outstanding, Another Justice for Josiah Vigil Planned for Today

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Despite continuous inquiries from news outlets and community members at city council meetings, the city of Arcata still has't received the $30,000 National Police Foundation review of the city's emergency response to David Josiah Lawson’s fatal stabbing on April 15, 2017, and officials still “don’t have a firm timeline” of when the report will reach their desks.

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rcata City Manager Karen Diemer said the foundation is working on fact checking and “final crafting of the language of the report,” adding that the foundation calls the city every other week to confirm specific information.

“I have trust in the police foundation’s accuracy of the report,” Diemer said. "My assessment is that [the foundation] is doing one more pass through [the report], and I do expect the report this year, hopefully in the first half rather than the second.”

In the early morning of April 15, 2017, Lawson was fatally stabbed at an off-campus party after multiple fights broke out over a lost cell phone. A suspect, Kyle Zoellner, of McKinleyville, was arrested at the scene and charged with the Lawson’s murder. However, a Humboldt County Superior Court judge later dismissed the charges saying there was insufficient evidence to hold Zoellner to stand trial. Last March, a criminal grand jury assembled to review evidence in the case decided not to indict Zoellner or anyone else anyone in Lawson’s killing, sending the case was back at the Arcata Police Department for further investigation.

In a Sept. 10, 2018 memo detailing what the city hoped to get out of the National Police Foundation review, then-Mayor Sofia Pereira and Diemer stated the nonprofit will "review the police department's response to make recommendations for improving major criminal events, including response to, and investigation of, catastrophic, multiple-victim and/or multiple-witness incidents in the future.”

Diemer also said that she expects the report to look analytically at what the city can do better in its emergency responses and how it can follow the best protocols moving forward.

“This was a case of lessons learned,” she said, anticipating some of the contents of the report. “We’re expecting it to be critical in regard to the city’s response of that night.”

In the meantime, the Justice for Josiah committee continues to hold monthly vigils observing the anniversary of Lawson’s death and to remind the community his killing remains unsolved. The 33rd such vigil will be held at Arcata City Hall today at 5:30 p.m..

Charmaine Lawson, Lawson’s mother, continues to visit Humboldt County regularly, vowing to find both justice for her son and answers as to what went wrong the night he was killed.

“Happy Justice Year to all!” reads a Justice for Josiah Facebook post. “I will not stop coming to Humboldt County until justice is served for my son.”

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