Andrew George Butler
Mad River Union
ARCATA – The Arcata Police Department is now accepting donations for a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the homicide of David Josiah Lawson on April 15.
The reward program was approved by the Arcata City Council June 7 and allows the police department to accept donations of less than $500 from those who want to contribute. So far, $21,000 has been raised.
Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman said the department has had success with reward programs in the past. In addition to the reward program, Chapman said an additional outside law enforcement agency from a larger city has partnered with his department on the case, but would not specify as to which agency or what specific tasks that agency might be working on.
The agency, according to Chapman, “committed two homicide detectives to the case.” However Chapman said he cannot give more details due to confidentiality concerns.
The California Department of Justice has also joined the investigation, providing forensic analysis, such as fingerprint scanning, a job that the DOJ does in virtually all homicide investigations statewide.
“In terms of investigative help, the DOJ will not be involved until local resources have been exhausted,” Chapman stated. In this instance, local resources refers to sister law enforcement agencies of the Arcata Police such as the Eureka Police and the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office.
Chapman also said during the council meeting that Arcata Police interviewed a new witness as recently as June 7, and that “This is absolutely an open and ongoing case... It is being worked on literally every day. We continue to interview and identify witnesses.”
Mayor Susan Ornelas shared with the chamber hall that Lawson’s mother, Charmaine Lawson, expressed gratitude and appreciation for the efforts and work of the Arcata Police and those in the community who have been keeping the hope for justice alive.
During public comment several people addressed the council regarding their frustrations and concerns regarding the Police Department’s work and the city itself.
HSU student Alex Foster, a close friend of the Lawson family, told the council “I don’t know if you misconstrued your words, but I’m in direct contact with Charmaine right now, and she’s telling me ‘Susan is wrong, that’s not what I said’ ... she said she’s grateful for the donors and the people in the community who have kept Josiah’s name alive... and she’ll be returning with her lawyer next week as well.”
Foster said the family plans to look into possibly filing a wrongful death suit with the city.
Several people at the council meeting, including Foster, repeatedly asked Chapman during public comment for the name of the outside investigating agency and the names of personnel assigned to the case.
After several more people made a public comment, the meeting devolved into a veritable argument between Mayor Ornelas and several people in the audience.
After several people had shouted out comments rebuking the police department and city for their work on the Lawson case, Mayor Ornelas said “I’m sorry you feel underserved, perhaps you’re out of the loop.”
After the council meeting, in an interview with the Union, Mayor Ornelas said, “I’m very sympathetic with the Lawson family. I think that when you’re not involved with an investigation, you feel no one is paying attention. Unfortunately, the business of the city continues, and while we are working everyday on the Lawson case, we have to also consider all the other business taking place in our city during a council meeting.”
Anyone with information regarding the killing of Lawson is urged to call the Arcata Police Department at (707) 822-2428 during normal business hours, or (707) 822-2424 after hours and on weekends.