Supporters beginning a prayer at David Josiah Lawson’s vigil on Feb 15 at the Arcata Plaza. Photo by Bailey Tennery.

Community gathers for David Josiah Lawson vigil

Lawson’s homicide case is still open.

Mother of David Josiah Lawson, Charmaine Lawson, drove eight hours to the Arcata Plaza to speak at her son’s vigil to remember, honor and celebrate his life. The African American Center for Academic Excellence organized Lawson’s vigil on Feb. 15.

“For those of you who are mothers, I drove my baby to school and he came back in a box,” Charmaine said. “It’s not okay, I am not going to apologize for my tears. I am trying to be strong, but it’s hard.”

Josiah’s homicide case remains open and active. The investigation interviewed 46 individuals that are believed to include all the witnesses who could have seen the fight and events leading up to the homicide.

The initial review of all the evidence has been finalized with assistance from a retired FBI investigator, Tom Parker.

Majority of forensic evidence has come back from the Department of Justice. Police are now awaiting a completion of DNA and specialty evidence testing.

Humboldt State University student Erianna Blackwell said it’s important to come out for support.

“Not only your people, but the cause,” Blackwell said. “Especially since they still haven’t found the killer.”

Josiah was murdered 10 months ago at an off-campus house party. The city council held four meetings in 2017 to update the community on the investigation and present strategies on how to improve student safety.

Michael Fennell, a Lawson supporter, said he’s been wearing his “Justice for Josiah” button for almost 10 months.

“I didn’t think I would be wearing it for this long,” Fennell said. “I thought it would be solved long ago.”

With two other children at home, Josiah’s mother told the crowd she was willing to move to Humboldt County to seek justice for her son.

“If it takes me moving for the police to do their job, I will,” Lawson said. “I don’t care about materialistic things if I have to sell my car [or] my house. I’ll do it for my son.”

Chairman of the Wiyot tribe, Ted Hernandez, showed up for the vigil and extended a prayer even though he had never met Josiah’s mother.

“I came to support Charmaine as a parent. I have five children and some have gone to HSU,” Hernandez said. “It is all about the community and supporting the mother. It is a healing process.”

Each month since Josiah’s death, a vigil has been organized in order to remember his memory and to put pressure on the ongoing investigation to find the murderer.

HSU journalism major Angel Sylva said she comes every month.

“I feel tired of having to come out every month,” Sylva said. “I feel like I’m coming out and nothing is being done. I come out regardless.”

A reward of $40,000 has been offered to anyone with new information leading to the arrest and conviction of Josiah’s murderer.

Mayor of the City of Arcata, Sofia Pereira, said when the AACAE asked her to come speak at the vigil, she agreed. But Pereira was uncertain on what she was going to say.

Pereira said to Josiah’s mother, “You have given so much to the community. This is a community you owe nothing to.”

“As a leader, I am going to fall short at times. I’d rather show up and fall short than to not show up at all,” Pereira said. “If we want true peace, we have to listen to our neighbors and take the situations seriously. I am engaging even though I feel uncomfortable.”

Pereira has been mayor of Arcata for two months. Her first meeting as mayor was on Dec. 20. The council alternates the position on an annual basis.

“I felt the gravity of the situation,” Pereira said. “It is not easy to speak in front of people who are grieving and want answers.”

After the last meeting in October, students requested investigation updates be separated from the student safety discussion and that student safety meetings be held on campus following the October meeting.

Student safety meetings in November and December were facilitated by students and held on campus. Meetings will continue to be held through the Student Diversity Committee with support from many campus club leaders.

“My life will never be the same,” Charmaine said. “I can’t even mourn my child, because I have to fight for him. It is taking too long to get results.”

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