Justice For Josiah committee urge the city to send Josiah case to the Department of Justice
Over a dozen of Justice For Josiah Committee members filled the chambers at city hall during Arcata City Council’s Wednesday meeting. The open to public meeting was met with dissatisfaction from J4J supporters and a call to send Josiah’s case to the Department of Justice or DOJ J4J member Karpani Burns was the first to speak and told Arcata City Council to connect with their humanity.
“I am here to express my disappointment in the J4J decision not to prosecute,” Burns said. “My feelings of the disconnect in this town, county, and country is truly becoming an epidemic. It is beginning to implode on its self.”
It has been nearly two years since the murder of David Josiah Lawson without a conviction. On March 13, Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming announced there would not be any charges filed in Josiah’s case, sparking protests in Eureka and gatherings at HSU.
J4J organizer Jill Larrabee urged Arcata City Council to send letters to the DOJ asking for assistance in the case.
“We ask you to do all you can,” Larrabee said. “All of you have connections and all have the power to write letters.”
Larrabee went on to say although she was angry and frustrated, she wasn’t surprised with DA Fleming’s decision. She told the city council that Fleming isn’t here for black people or justice.
“This is a recognition of racial inequality,” Larrabee said. “ We need this case out of Humboldt County. We are not going anywhere. Charmaine is not going anywhere.”
J4J member Kelsey Reedy was also not surprised with Fleming’s decision. Reedy said the system in place is not here to help people of color but people of power and that no entity in Humboldt County can handle Josiah’s case.
“We have been told multiple times this is an open and shut case, obviously it’s not,” Reedy said. “We demand you call the DOJ, however that works, either individually or as a council. We cannot let Charmaine wait any longer.”
External affairs representative for HSU’s Associated Students and J4J member Oliver Winfield-Perez agrees with Reedy and told Arcata City Council the lack of support for Josiah’s case shows the lack of capability to solve it without the DOJ.
Winfield-Perez said the friends of Josiah’s who were with him when he was murdered have to live with that trauma everyday and weren’t given the support they needed.
“I wonder about those students a lot,” Winfield-Perez said. “They were disrespected by APD and the community at large. They had to create their own network and space for healing without city council.”
Mayor Bret Watson told J4J committee members Arcata City Council has some letters already drafted to the DOJ as well as local elected officials.
“We will make sure we’ll get some refresh calls for help,” Watson said.
Letters to be sent to the DOJ wasn’t the only thing J4J committee members were asking for. Retired Attorney and J4J member Richard Kossow, urged Arcata City Council to release the Police Foundation report on APD’s case.
“Its time we have some kind of understanding of this investigation,” Kossow said. “Is there an action step to close this?”
The Police Foundation is a national organization built to hold police forces accountable. They were called in by Arcata City Council in 2018 once APD’s investigation was wrapped.
City Manager Karen Diemer said the report would be out by May. Arcata Chief of Police Brian Ahearn said he supports the decision of asking the DOJ for assistance if that is what city council decides.
“If that determines to be the best course of action for the city than I support it,” Ahearn said. “As long as we are on the case we will look for outside help.”