Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Speakers Urge Arcata City Council to Seek State Help in Lawson Case

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 9:55 PM

Jill Larrabee, left, waits to speak at the Arcata City Council meeting regarding the Josiah Lawson case and joined others in calling on city officials to call the DOJ or another outside agency to assist the investigation. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Jill Larrabee, left, waits to speak at the Arcata City Council meeting regarding the Josiah Lawson case and joined others in calling on city officials to call the DOJ or another outside agency to assist the investigation.

Almost two dozen people gathered in the Arcata City Hall lobby before tonight's city council meeting, prepared to ask the council to seek outside help in the David Josiah Lawson investigation after a criminal grand jury declined to hand up indictments in the case, sending it back to the Arcata Police Department for further investigation.

Lawson, a sophomore at Humboldt State University, who was fatally stabbed at an off campus party in the early morning of April 15, 2017. Kyle Zoellner, a 23-year-old McKinleyville resident, was arrested at the scene and charged with Lawson’s murder but a Humboldt County Superior Court judge dismissed the case, saying there was insufficient evidence to Zoellner to stand trial.

Interim Police Richard Ehle turned the investigation over to the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office in November, telling the Journal there’s "unequivocal physical evidence” linking a specific suspect to the murder. On March 13, the Humboldt District Attorney’s Office sent out a press release reporting that a criminal grand jury convened Feb. 28 declined to indict anyone in connection to the crime and, “therefore, no charges will be filed in this case,” the release said. (In Humboldt County, a criminal grand jury consists of 19 people, 12 of whom must to find there is “probable cause” that a crime was committed by a suspect to hand up an indictment.)

Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn vowed to continue the investigation, saying that APD will re-interview witnesses and investigate old leads. A couple of days after the announcement, Lawson’s mother, Charmaine Lawson, came to Humboldt County and spoke at HSU and the Humboldt County Courthouse about her disappointment on the criminal grand jury’s decision.

Arcata City Councilmember Sofia Pereira listens to speakers during the public comment section for non-agenda items. All of the speakers asked for the council to call for an outside agency to take on the investigation of the murder of HSU student Josiah Lawson. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Arcata City Councilmember Sofia Pereira listens to speakers during the public comment section for non-agenda items. All of the speakers asked for the council to call for an outside agency to take on the investigation of the murder of HSU student Josiah Lawson.

“We’re not going to stop fighting: This doesn’t end,” she told the crowd in front of the courthouse on Friday. “Thursday’s decision doesn’t end. (District Attorney) Maggie Fleming, if you can hear me, you have me fighting harder. I’m fighting harder.”

Between the turnouts at HSU and the courthouse, hundreds had gathered in support.

On Monday the Justice for Josiah campaign posted a call to action on Facebook: “Please use your voice and privilege to stand with Charmaine in seeking Justice for Josiah.”

When the floor at the Arcata City Council meeting opened for public comment, 11 people stood and began to form a line behind the podium. Most of them urged the city council to write to the California Department of Justice to take on the case.

“We are angry and frustrated, but this is typical,” Jill Larrabee told the council. “No one is surprised with this outcome. We are asking you to do everything in all of your power to ask the DOJ to take on the investigation and prosecution of this case. … Each and every one of you has connections and has power, use your connections to get this out of Humboldt County. … We are not going anywhere.”

Kelsey Reedy, center, an HSU alum and community member, listens to speakers asking the Arcata City Council to call for outside help in the Josiah Lawson homicide investigation. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Kelsey Reedy, center, an HSU alum and community member, listens to speakers asking the Arcata City Council to call for outside help in the Josiah Lawson homicide investigation.
Most of the speakers also asked about the Police Foundation report. Last September, Arcata hired Police Foundation, a nonprofit, to investigate APD’s controversial response the night of Lawson’s death. According to a Sept. 10 memo, Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer said the nonprofit will “review the police department’s response and to make recommendations for improving major criminal events, including response to, and investigation of, catastrophic, multiple-victim and/or multiple-witness incidents in the future,” with the report expected by the end of last year.

During public comment this evening, Richard Kossow questioned the timeline.

“Six months ago, we were told that an organization called Police Foundation had been retained to look into how the Arcata Police Department dealt with this homicide in April of 2017. I’ve heard nothing since,” he said. “It seems to me that it’s time that we start to get some kind of understanding of what that investigation has shown or some acknowledgment from you that the investigation has gone on.”

At the end of the public comment period, Diemer addressed the concerns over the Police Foundation report, saying the city received communications with the nonprofit that has completed its investigation of the report. She said the final report should be expected by May, but added that if the report indicates anything that could impede the Lawson investigation, it would not be made public. But, she added, the council intends to make the report public as soon as it is able.

After the public comment period, Mayor Brett Watson addressed speakers’ calls for the California Department of Justice to intervene.

“We have sent letters to the Department of Justice and the Attorney General and we are working on new, refreshed letters — new letters — and a new call for their help to step in,” he said, adding that the city is also recruiting local politicians to solicit use their connections to seek help from the state.
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SF Man Honored for Helping Save Humboldt Residents at Fiery Crash

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 4:27 PM

COURTESY OF CARNEGIE HERO FUND COMMISSION
  • Courtesy of Carnegie Hero Fund Commission
Nicholas Anderson and his girlfriend Tracy weren’t supposed to be headed down the section of U.S. Highway 101 where they found themselves just after midnight on May 26, 2017.

But a glitch with a credit card at a gas station had forced the San Francisco couple traveling to a family reunion to retrace their steps in order to fill up, taking them back down the rural stretch of road north of Willits.

Anderson says he recalls immediately sensing something was seriously wrong when he came across a truck with its hazard signals on and a man jumping out of its passenger side with a fire extinguisher in his hand.

Then the fiery head-on crash came into view.
Nicholas Anderson was honored for helping save five people at the scene of the devastating May of 2017 crash. - COURTESY OF TRACY SPEARS
  • Courtesy of Tracy Spears
  • Nicholas Anderson was honored for helping save five people at the scene of the devastating May of 2017 crash.

Anderson’s actions in the following moments of that night would help save the lives of five people, including two young children who were trapped in one of the cars that had burst into flames.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

HSU's El Leñador Wins Multiple Awards

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 at 3:07 PM

El Leñador 2018 issues. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • El Leñador 2018 issues.
Humboldt State University’s El Leñador newspaper won six first place awards in the 2019 California College Media Association statewide awards competition this year.

“I can’t be more proud of our El Leñador staff,” Jose Herrera, current editor-in-chief said in the press release. “The awards are a sign that we are doing incredible work covering the community.”

Founded in 2013, the bilingual El Leñador “focuses on covering Latinx and diverse community at HSU and Humboldt County,” the press release said. The bilingual newspaper won its first-place awards for Best Photo Series, Best Feature Photograph, Best Feature, Best Illustration, Best Website, and Best Inside Spread/Page Design and placed in six other additional categories. In 2016, El Leñador was named best non-weekly student newspaper by Excellence in Student Media Awards.

“These awards are a testament to the appreciation and value of news that is diverse and inclusive,” Andrea Juarez, the newspapers faculty advisor said. “El Leñador staff are passionate about producing news that is impactful and matters.”


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Eureka Code Enforcement Uncovers Large Hash Lab

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 at 10:24 AM

eureka.jpg
A butane hash lab operation was shut down near the North Coast Co-op on Friday after Eureka Police Department officers served a search warrant, finding hundreds of pounds of cannabis trim and more than 100 pounds of liquid butane.

According to a release, the illegal operation at Third and A streets was discovered by the city’s code enforcement unit.

“Materials and equipment consistent with hash extraction and processing were also found,” the release states. “All equipment and materials were confiscated and criminal charges are being pursued against the individuals involved.”


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Monday, March 18, 2019

Trinidad Rancheria Unveils its Revised Hotel Proposal

Posted By on Mon, Mar 18, 2019 at 12:11 PM

An artistic rendering of the proposed hotel project at Cher-Ae Heights Casino off Scenic Drive south of Trinidad. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • An artistic rendering of the proposed hotel project at Cher-Ae Heights Casino off Scenic Drive south of Trinidad.

The Trinidad Rancheria recently presented its revised concept of a 100-room hotel on the bluffs of Scenic Drive but it aroused little enthusiasm from the residents of Trinidad.

David Tyson, CEO of the Trinidad Rancheria Economic Development Corporation (TREDC), gave the presentation during the March 13 meeting of the Trinidad City Council to an audience of about 40 people. Tyson said the Rancheria had reviewed the hundreds of comments received last October about the planned five-story Hyatt hotel and tried to address the concerns expressed. TREDC has hired a new developer, architect and hotel operator. Nonetheless, the plans still depict a five-story building, which is considerably larger than any other structure on the Trinidad coast.

The height of the building was reduced by about 20 feet, and the exterior now displays exposed timber and rock, which Tyson said is typical of northwestern architecture.

The audience was generally polite, with many people expressing appreciation for the Rancheria's continued work to improve the project, but was clearly skeptical of the proposal, with 18 of the 19 people who addressed the council speaking critically of it.


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North Coast Night Lights: Here at the Edge

Posted By on Mon, Mar 18, 2019 at 10:57 AM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
The vastness of things often comes home to me while I’m photographing at the edge of the continent or beneath the stars. To the east is the grounding solidity of the great North American land mass, to the west the immense Pacific Ocean stretches far beyond the horizon, and above, the field of stars. And there I am, just a tiny thing standing unnoticed.

Right next to that thought is the realization that it’s all relative. How very small these things are, like landmasses. Or the planet itself. Think about it: If you stood far enough out from our globe that the Earth was about golf ball size in your view, how small would be that film of atmosphere clinging to its surface? Could you even see it? At that scale, it wouldn’t take much to wipe it right off …
Lights from shore illuminate this great chunk of rock here where the wild coastline intersects with humanity. Above, a satellite’s eye in the sky so high crawled slowly past Orion. Humboldt County, California. February 22, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Lights from shore illuminate this great chunk of rock here where the wild coastline intersects with humanity. Above, a satellite’s eye in the sky so high crawled slowly past Orion. Humboldt County, California. February 22, 2019.
It’s easy to get lost in a feeling of tininess when I realize that everything we understand about the universe is, in fact, a ridiculously minuscule amount of information next to what’s out there not yet understood, most of which will never be known by us. We learn and grow in our understanding of the universe around us all the time as we observe and experiment, but we will never be able to fit into our heads, nor into all the computer banks our civilization will ever produce, a complete model that describes it all. There are a lot of variables.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

'This Doesn't End;' Hundreds Attend Vigils Demanding 'Justice for Josiah'

Posted By on Sat, Mar 16, 2019 at 3:30 PM

Charmaine Lawson is hugged by supporters shortly before addressing students, faculty and the community on the HSU Quad on Friday, the 23-month anniversary of the killing of her son, David Josiah Lawson. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Charmaine Lawson is hugged by supporters shortly before addressing students, faculty and the community on the HSU Quad on Friday, the 23-month anniversary of the killing of her son, David Josiah Lawson.

Red hats, scarfs and sweaters enveloped the exterior of the Humboldt County Courthouse and “Justice for Josiah” and “I stand with Charmaine Lawson” signs sat on the steps, as Lawson began to speak.

“We’re not going to stop fighting, this doesn’t end,” she said. “Thursday’s decision doesn’t end. Maggie Fleming, if you can hear me, you have me fighting harder. I’m fighting harder.”

Lawson’s son, David Josiah Lawson, a 19-year-old Humboldt State University sophomore, was fatally stabbed at an off-campus party April 15, 2017, reportedly after being in at least two physical altercations with a 23-year-old McKinleyville man, Kyle Zoellner. Zoellner was arrested at the scene but a Humboldt County Superior Court Judge dismissed the murder charge, finding there was insufficient evidence to hold him to stand trial.

MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
Last November, interim Chief of Police Richard Ehle turned the investigation over to the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, saying there was “unequivocal physical evidence” linking a specific suspect to the murder. But the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office sent out a press release on March 13, announcing a criminal grand jury declined to indict anyone in connection to Lawson’s stabbing and “therefore, no charges will be filed in this case.”

According to the press release, the grand jury made up of 19 jurors convened on Feb. 28 and heard testimony from 25 witnesses, including forensic experts and DNA evidence. The decision was later met with protest as a dozen people headed to the steps of the courthouse that night. Zoellner’s attorney also sent out a press release on his behalf, which you can see here.

The Friday night protest began with a song, “Amor Eterno,” played by Octavio Acosta, an HSU student. Then speakers, including Lawson, Eric Rydberg, Michihiro Clark Sugata, Mike Fennell and Shemya Vaughn, talked about their frustrations with the case and called for the community to make change and demand justice.

“We stand in front of a system that has failed,” Rydberg told the crowd. “We need to stand together in solidarity and demand justice. We’re going to stand with Charmaine and we’re not going to stop until we do.”
Charmaine Lawson calls on the community to continue to demand justice for her son. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Charmaine Lawson calls on the community to continue to demand justice for her son.
Fennell, who has grown close to the Lawson family and attended the preliminary hearing in the case, asked the white community to use its privilege to make change and also expressed the idea of recalling Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming. The crowd cheered.

“The hard work should really be on the white community up here, to help change, we can’t do it alone. It needs to be a collaboration,” Fennell said. “I think it’s time to consider a recall of our district attorney. … Even if the recall doesn’t work, we will weaken her chances in the next election.”

Before the protest ended, Lawson called up all current HSU students to stand with her at the top of the steps. Half of the crowd joined her.

“This is our future behind us,” Lawson said. “They are our future and we have to protect them. We cannot abandon them. … You all are destined for greatness and you will change the world.”
Humboldt State Student Janaee Sykes speaks to the crowd as Charmaine Lawson holds her hands. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt State Student Janaee Sykes speaks to the crowd as Charmaine Lawson holds her hands.
She then asked one of them to speak. Janaee Sykes, an HSU student and an acquaintance of Josiah’s, told the crowd to continue to fight for Josiah.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” Sykes told the Journal. “It hurts to know that he should be graduating. I just want the community to continue to support Charmaine. We owe it to her.”

Earlier in the day — in what was her first appearance in the county since the grand jury’s decision — Lawson had gone to HSU and spoke on the university quad about Fleming’s handling of the case..

“I’m am going die fighting for my son,” Lawson said. “I’m going to continue to fight.”

HSU University Police Chief Donn Peterson listens while Charmaine Lawson speaks of her son. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • HSU University Police Chief Donn Peterson listens while Charmaine Lawson speaks of her son.
In the quad, people were wiping and sniffling back tears as Lawson spoke about her son and told them stories about his character. Among the crowd stood HSU President Lisa Rossbacher, who, according to Lawson, called her Thursday and voiced genuine frustration and anger about the grand jury’s decision. Lawson then told the retiring Rossbacher not to abandon her son in the time she has left as president. She also urged the crowd to continue to fight for Josiah.

"Do not turn your back on him. Do not abandon him. Stand for him. Fight for him. Because this could have happened to anyone of you," Lawson said.

Lawson plans to attend HSU’s graduation in place of Josiah, who would have been in his last semester at the university. Until then, Lawson will continue to return to Humboldt to work on the Josiah scholarship and the housing program, “Josiah’s House.”

“Thank you all for coming out and supporting me,” she told the crowd last night in front of the courthouse. “If we have to go back to city council, so be it. If we need to shut if down, so be it. We’re not going anywhere. HSU students, I love you all and pray for your safety each and every time you leave campus, I pray for your safe return.”

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St. Joseph Hospital Donates $2 Million to Jumpstart HSU's New Nursing Program

Posted By on Sat, Mar 16, 2019 at 2:47 PM

Humboldt State University President Lisa Rossbacher (right) receives a $2 million check from St. Joseph Hospital for the university's new nursing program. - FREDDY BREWSTER
  • Freddy Brewster
  • Humboldt State University President Lisa Rossbacher (right) receives a $2 million check from St. Joseph Hospital for the university's new nursing program.
Humboldt State University is bringing back its nursing program and St. Joseph Hospital has a committed a $2 million grant to help implement and sustain the new partnership between the College of the Redwoods and HSU. The program is hoped to help address health care shortages and “keep quality healthcare close to home” by allowing nursing students from CR to transfer to HSU in order to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, which, according to State Sen. Mike McGuire, is a needed standard in most healthcare facilities.

North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire talks about the importance of HSU's new nursing program. - FREDDY BREWSTER
  • Freddy Brewster
  • North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire talks about the importance of HSU's new nursing program.
“One of the top issues that we have heard about in the last four years is a lack of a Bachelor of Science in nursing at Humboldt State,” McGuire said. “We are going to be expanding the pipeline of the qualified nursing professionals here on the North Coast. College of the Redwoods has a LVN to RN program at their campus, but we know their numbers must increase to be able to meet the demand.”

McGuire said Humboldt County needs about 70 nurses a year to graduate from the program and hopes the new partnership will be able to meet those demands. The program will have four main components that will address needs specific to the North Coast, including rural needs, cultural humility, leadership and behavioral health.

“This is truly a game changer for the North Coast,” McGuire said. “There is a severe shortage of nurses throughout northern California. This program will create hundreds of family sustaining careers in the first few years that it has been launched.”

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Friday, March 15, 2019

Attorney: Zoellner Thanks Jurors, Hopes Police Will Seek 'Truth' in Lawson Investigation

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 4:53 PM

Kyle Zoellner's mug shot. - ARCATA POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Arcata Police Department
  • Kyle Zoellner's mug shot.
After a criminal grand jury targeting him opted not to issue an indictment, a McKinleyville man suspected in the stabbing death of David Josiah Lawson hopes the jury’s decision “will allow law enforcement to investigate the case from a new perspective and seek the truth,” according to a press release from his attorney.

“Kyle Zoellner would like to thank the jurors of Humboldt County for their consideration and commitment to finding the truth in the grand jury matter involving Josiah Lawson,” states the release from Deputy Public Defender Luke Brownfield. “Mr. Zoellner has now been prosecuted twice for a crime he did not commit. Each time the finder of fact has found that there is not even probable cause to believe Mr. Zoellner committed a crime.”

Since Arcata police arrived at the scene of a chaotic house party before dawn on April 15, 2017, to find Lawson, 19, bleeding from a multiple stab wounds, including one to the heart, Zoellner has been the prime suspect. Bloodied and bruised, reportedly from at least two separate fights with Lawson and his friends that night, he was arrested at the scene and charged with Lawson’s murder. But just weeks later, a Humboldt County Superior Court judge dismissed the case, finding prosecutors had failed to present enough evidence to hold him to stand trial on the charge.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Charmaine Lawson Vows to Keep Fighting for Son, Plans to Attend Tomorrow's Vigil

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2019 at 5:55 PM

Aunna Bowllmann holds a sign in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse yesterday, protesting a criminal grand jury's decision not to indict anyone in the unsolved killing of David Josiah Lawson. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Aunna Bowllmann holds a sign in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse yesterday, protesting a criminal grand jury's decision not to indict anyone in the unsolved killing of David Josiah Lawson.

The mother of slain Humboldt State University sophomore David Josiah Lawson says she won't give up in her quest to find justice for her son, despite yesterday's announcement that a criminal grand jury convened in the case declined to hand down indictments.


“I am heartbroken by the (grand jury's) decision, my family is heartbroken. We are devastated again,” Charmaine Lawson said in a voicemail left for the Journal. “I’m going to continue to fight for my son. I’m not going anywhere.”

A vigil is planned to commemorate the 23 month anniversary of Lawson's death tomorrow evening in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse. Charmaine Lawson said she plans to attend the vigil and hold a press conference in the near future.

Lawson, a 19-year-old HSU sophomore, was fatally stabbed at an off-campus party in Arcata on April 15, 2017. Kyle Zoellner, a 23 year old McKinleyville man, was arrested shortly after the stabbing but a judge later dismissed the murder charge facing him, citing insufficient evidence to hold him to stand trial.


Yesterday, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office announced that a criminal grand jury decided not to indict anyone in connection with the stabbing after hearing testimony from more than two dozen witnesses.


The Justice for Josiah campaign sent the Journal a statement calling on community members to join the organization in front of the courthouse tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.

“If you are outraged, angered, saddened, numb or disheartened by the recent grand jury decision, take these emotions and propel them into action with us,” reads the statement, which is copied in its entirety below.



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