On April 15, 2017, my son, a Black HSU student leader David Josiah Lawson was blinded by mace and then stabbed to death in Arcata, California at a party after he and his friends were falsely accused of stealing a cell phone that was later found. As my son lay dying the suspect's girlfriend said “I hope that n****r dies”. The suspect was arrested and shortly after released due to the mishandling of the preliminary hearing by the Humboldt County DA’s office. This propelled the community to join me to fight for justice for my son.
Since then there have been a series of cover-ups, three different chiefs of police, botched investigations, and clear examples of systemic racism, nepotism, and conflicts of interest by both the City of Arcata and the Humboldt County DA’s office. The National Police Foundation investigated the handling of my son’s murder and published its findings in a 67-page report in which they found gross incompetence and mishandling by the first responders.
In both the preliminary hearing and subsequent criminal grand jury procedure the DA’s office seemingly acted as a defense for the murderer. An outraged juror broke their silence and spoke to a local television news station and publicized the brazen injustice and systemic racism within the grand jury trial. According to the juror, Assistant DA Joel Buckingham pushed for a self-defense finding, rather than a conviction, additionally, he appeared to intentionally confuse jurors when presenting the case. The murderer was not held accountable and is living freely in Humboldt County. Since my son’s passing, I have traveled almost every month to Humboldt County from Southern California pleading with leaders of the community and law enforcement to bring closure and justice to our family. I have fought diligently for justice for my first-born child to no avail.
Although my heart is broken and the grief is compounded by the failure of Humboldt’s judicial system to bring justice to my family, I have given back to the community of Humboldt County in honor of my son. My family, community members, and I formed the Justice for Josiah (J4J) Committee. We have held marches, rallies, monthly vigils, annual celebrations of life, supported local businesses, artists, fed the public, and worked alongside other community organizations and stood in solidarity with other civil rights and social justice movements. We have held annual coat drives for those in need and established the David Josiah Lawson Scholarship alongside the Eureka branch of the NAACP.
I am relentlessly fighting for justice for my son. I have exhausted all my financial resources and am currently in litigation discovery with the city of Arcata, for failure to investigate my son’s case. I am respectfully and humbly writing for financial support to assist with my legal expenses for justice for my son. This fight is not only for my son but for all people of color in Humboldt County who have been marginalized and who have fallen victim of a broken system, a system of systemic racism, marginalization, and unfairness, which has been historic within the 74% white community for too long. Donations will go into a trust that will only be used to continue the legal pursuit of holding the City of Arcata accountable for the wrongful and senseless murder of my son.
DJ was a passionate leader and visionary, he sought to improve the lives of all he touched and desired a career in public service. He exemplified ambition, love, and compassion. He was an outstanding son, big brother, grandson, nephew, and mentor. Our family feels his loss deeply and endlessly. Our family needs closure so that we can properly mourn his loss. Justice delayed is justice denied, not only for the victim but for all of society. As his mom, I will never give up the fight.
Charmaine Lawson, Mom of David Josiah Lawson
Justice for Josiah Committee