By: Tina Sampay
HSU alumni (2016)
Journalism & Critical Race & Gender Theory major/minor
Saturday morning Humboldt State University student David Lawson was stabbed at an off campus party and died as a result of his injuries. The police have yet to release a mugshot of the suspect. According to the Times-Standard:
“Neither police nor HSU officials released the name of the detained man, but according to Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office logs, authorities booked a Kyle Zoellner into the county jail on Saturday on suspicion of murder. Zoellner was the only inmate booked into the county jail Saturday for murder and a Facebook page belonging to a Kyle Zoellner indicated he lived in McKinleyville.”
The facebook page has since been taken down and it appears that the suspect is not an HSU student.
Mckinleyville in itself is noteworthy because it is the next town over from Humboldt State where students are spooked from venturing into because it is rumored to have an active KKK chapter.
David Lawson, a young Black man also known to many by Josiah, was a sophomore at HSU studying criminology. Josiah graduated from Rancho Verde High School in Riverside County.
Elijah Chandler, a friend of David who was present at the scene gives a chilling recount to reporters of what happened. What is most alarming is the ways in which Chandler describes how the police handled the situation:
“We were wondering where the ambulance was and why no one was helping us. There were several cops around us. No one helped, no one gave us assistance. The only thing they were focused on was making sure that these people of color were not getting out of control.”
“So I had to fight for my friends life and wait for help that came way too late.”
Chandler said that there was an altercation where two white women and Zoellner were accusing Josiah of stealing a phone. Josiah was even pepper-sprayed before being stabbed.
When asked why he believed the police have not released a mugshot Chandler replied, “To protect their own, like they always do.”
Our local paper the Times-Standard talked with the mother of Josiah. Ms. Lawson relayed to the Times-Standard she was informed that if the authorities can not find more witnesses, Zoellner might be released. Although there are 13 witnesses, none of the witnesses saw Zoellner with the knife.
According to the Times-Standard:
"Michelle-Charmaine Lawson said witnesses said they saw the suspect punching her son, but accounts of the incident by authorities to her indicated he was being stabbed with a small knife."
“The suspect wasn’t punching, he was stabbing my son to death,” she said.
Numerous students who were present at the party have many concerns over the ways in which the police responded to the scene of the stabbing. Students have stated online and on-campus that the police who responded to the 911 call were more active in trying to contain and control the crowd of Black people at the party, than helping the stabbed student who lay bleeding out under a tree in bushes. A cop is said to have had his taser out threatening to tase people.
Students also have questions as to what took the ambulance so long to arrive on scene. Reports are that the scene needed to be cleared by police before the EMT could approach. I still believe that more could have been done in a timely manner to get Josiah medical attention once police arrived on scene.
My heart hurts for the pain Josiah's mother and family is going through and the devastation they feel over their sudden lost. I hope that Ms. Lawson is able to get justice for her son. As of now Zoellner must see a judge and be arraigned by April 19th or he will be released from custody. This puzzles me a lot because clearly this was a hate crime and should be addressed as such by those who speak about and handle the case.
Rest in peace David Josiah Lawson.
Video of Elijah Chandler speaking on the incident by KRCR News Channel 7: