Charmaine Lawson stands on stage as her son's name is read at the Humboldt State University 2019 commencement on May 18, 2019., as Josiah is awarded a degree posthumously two years after his death off campus. | Photo by Thomas Lal

The Humboldt community runs to remember Josiah Lawson four years later

After the pandemic restricted her from traveling last year, Charmaine Lawson returns to Humboldt county for David Josiah Lawson vigil
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April 15 marked the four year anniversary of Josiah Lawson’s murder, and two days later his mother Charmaine Lawson returned to Humboldt to hold a four mile run, coat drive, and supply giveaway in his honor.

The run went up G Street with one mile for each year that the Josiah Lawson case has remained unsolved. Charmaine Lawson has been holding memorials in remembrance each year, but was unable to travel to Humboldt last year due to COVID-19.

Josiah Lawson was a student at HSU when he was murdered at an off campus house party in April 2017. In the wake of the incident, the Arcata Police Department was widely criticized for its poor handling of evidence, slow response, and the lack of public information. Charmaine Lawson has pushed continually since then for further inquiries and for a resolution to the now four-year-old case.

Information has been slow to come in and APD continues to urge people to come forward if anyone has any relevant information on the case. Part of that effort is a reward for any information that leads to the arrest of whoever murdered Josiah.

According to Andre Ramos, a mentor of Josiah’s and friend of the Lawson family, the reward has been raised to encourage more people to come forward with new information.

“We want to bring justice by identifying the responsible party. As a form of encouragement, Charmaine has increased the reward to $100,000,” Ramos said. “If there is someone that is willing to provide the necessary information to complete the arrest and conviction of the responsible parties, they will be rewarded $100,000.”

Charmaine Lawson has received widespread support from many Humboldt residents who sympathize with her frustrations with the slow and ineffective response of Humboldt County’s public officials.

People who attended the vigil on April 17 were given free coffee and bagels, one of 100 backpacks full of supplies including toiletries and warm clothing, free coats, and packages of hot food from the Arcata Mutual Aid society. The event also featured multiple speakers from the Lawson family and friends from around the area.

Karpani Burns, an Arcata resident and an attendant at the vigil, says that she is very happy that Charmaine can come back up to Humboldt.

“I think that this is a beautiful thing because Charmaine couldn’t come up last year,” Burns said. “So it’s great she can be back with friends and family.”

The case caused controversy on the HSU campus as well, as many students felt as if they were not being listened to in their concerns or kept updated on the case and that the slow trickle of information is racially motivated. The university has worked with the police for the investigation and has continued to work to ensure the safety of students.

According to Douglas Smith, Coordinator of the AACAE, the HSU faculty has taken steps to listen to students and their concerns.

“When considering safety, since being on campus as staff I have personally been in several spaces, as the BSU and Brothers United advisor, where students had the ear and attention of administration,” Smith said. “In those conversations, information was exchanged, concerns were received, then action was taken. There is room for improvement, and a large part of that includes hiring and retaining Black faculty and removing curriculum that harbors white supremacy.”

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