Celebration of the Life of Stabbing Victim Will be Held at Humboldt State University Today; Racial Bias Alleged to Have Led to Death

David Josiah Lawson

David Josiah Lawson

As a memorial for the victim of Saturday’s stabbing takes place today, some students of color at Humboldt State University are raising questions about racial bias leading to the young man’s death.

According to an announcement by Humboldt State University, “A celebration of life in remembrance of David Josiah Lawson will be held on Thursday, April 20, at 5 p.m. in the Kate Buchanan Room.” Lawson was a criminology student at the university and had “recently been elected president of HSU’s Brothers United,” the announcement said.
kyle zoellner

Kyle Zoellner

Family, friends, and members of the community will gather to remember the 19-year-old who was stabbed to death early last Saturday morning.

A suspect, Kyle Zoellner, age 23 from McKinleyville, was arrested the same day. Yesterday, Zoellner pled not guilty to murder charges in the case. His bail was set at one million dollars. The motive for the stabbing is unclear. Some stories have alleged that a fist fight broke out between Lawson and Zoellner after Zoellner accused Lawson of stealing a phone. The fight then became a stabbing, according to some sources.
Students of color at the university have expressed anger at what they feel was the racially biased treatment of the victim and other attendees at the party where the stabbing occurred that could have led to his death. One student of color wrote in a blog post,

Numerous students who were present at the party have many concerns over the ways in which the police responded to the scene of the stabbing. Students have stated online and on-campus that the police who responded to the 911 call were more active in trying to contain and control the crowd of Black people at the party, than helping the stabbed student who lay bleeding out under a tree in bushes. A cop is said to have had his taser out threatening to tase people.

Students also have questions as to what took the ambulance so long to arrive on scene. Reports are that the scene needed to be cleared by police before the EMT could approach, but I still think more could have been done in a timely manner within police protocol to get Josiah medical attention once police around on scene. 

HSU President Lisa Rossbacher issued a statement saying,
At HSU, we remain focused on supporting our students and doing all we can for Josiah’s family. Our University Police are continuing to assist the Arcata Police Department, which is leading the investigation. Looking ahead, we will insist that everything possible will be done to pursue justice for Josiah.

The mother of Lawson wrote yesterday on a GoFundMe page which has raised almost $20,000,

We are on our way right now to bring DJ home, so please keep us in your prayers as we travel to Humboldt. We are thankful for the Humboldt community for their graciousness, and continued support your love has been profoundly felt.



  • This who thing just sucks ,fpr or community we need this like a hole in the head .

  • what if it were your son, dead.

    students of color allege? I’m not a student of color and I allege that this attack was racially influenced. Many other students not “of color” believe so as well. David Josiah Lawson was “of color” which is important considering the attack. Stating that only students of color are alleging that this was a racially driven crime does the entire community a disservice.

    • Trying to cram meaning into headlines without making them into paragraphs is not one of my most successful aspects. Could you suggest a better title?

      • Best be careful, they might claim you are being rasist! Keep up the good work Kym


        • Yours helped me reform it to this: Celebration of the Life of Stabbing Victim Will be Held at Humboldt State University Today; Racial Bias Alleged to Have Led to Death

      • I would suggest “Celebration of the Life of Stabbing Victim Will be Held at Humboldt State University Today; Witnesses Allege Racial Bias Could Have Led to Death”

        • I thought of that but the person I was quoting wasn’t a witness.

          • ?!?!?! you quoted a non-witness to base racial profiling in a questionable murder? AND headline it as racial profiling?? do you realize how wrong that is?

            • No, I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m talking about the climate of questioning on campus. Many students feel (whether rightly or wrongly) that what happened that night was affected by race. Ignoring that there is a significant sense among a group that they have been mistreated, whether it is true or not, is a recipe for disaster.

              • but its an allegation…there is an equal allegation that the incident was not race motivated…both from pure speculation, and in that regard you cannot deny, what in plain english is refered to as “playing the race card.” it does nothing but fuel an unecessary fire, especially at this point of information. yes, what you did is wrong if you care about true representation of the facts without bias. one could “allege” all sorts of scenarios, none of which would be fair to anybody. remember, the accused has pleaded not guilty.

                • see…. told you Kym…. you get accused of being racist by some whiney liberal

                • no, lay goodwyn, im not accusing kym of being racist at all, just misrepresenting the bigger picture surrounding a horrible incident, and in a way that definitely “plays the race card.” has the accused been violent before? to whom? i allege this was a drunken party brawl, and racial profiling isnt warranted in this case.

                • Beats getting accused by some peabrain Conservative.

            • wwhat??? kim did nothing wrong. grow up and get a life and stop being a cry baby.

          • OMG the nit-picking just goes on and on..I don’t know how you keep your calm

            • Luckily, I have patient family that will occasionally listen to me rant. That way I save the rest of you from seeing me be equally unreasonable.

            • some things are worth nitpicking. imagine your loved one killed or accused of killing somebody. it would make a hypocrite of you really quick in the circumstances of this tragedy, thats for sure.

      • I think it is two related but separate stories, trying to link them into one headline is where the trouble started.

    • oh god , just nit pic everything to hell until you aren’t ” offended ” anymore , snowflake.

    • Absolutely! Well stated “what if it were your son, dead”. Thanks

  • A color attack.? Obviously a bunch of liberals playing the race card. Did the victim look as bad as the alleged stabber? Kyle sure looks like he was defending himself. You may think I sound mean, but unless you were right there, you are just assuming… now go to your “safe spot” get out of taking tests, turning in reports, and taking fiinals… or man up, and mind your own (but liberals use any excuse they can to get their way)

    • what if it were your son

      Mind your own business? Stand by and watch as a student gets murdered in California’s own version of the 1960’s south? Let it get swept under the table? The racially violent history of Humboldt county is far from distant! Wake up. Fairly certain everyone is trying to finish the semester. I am also fairly certain one young man will not because of the violent behavior of a man who’s behaviors were most certainly influenced to some degree (and as alleged by numerous witnesses, an intense degree), by racial bias. Get over yourself and read some research and primary source documents on your county.

      • Kyle was obviously violently attacked (look at his face)… so did you ever think he was defending himself? doing what he had to to get out of being killed himself. Who is to say the black guys attacking him didn’t do it because he was white.. maybe it is a race hate crime against the white boy…

      • The 1960s South? Typical guilty white liberal hyperbole. You obviously know something the police don’t. There is nothing but the color of skin that would lead you to that conclusion. Yet you think the other people are racist. Oh the gentle irony

    • Check whose fists have injuries. He could have had his face bashed in after the murder. There is racism here and the young man who died had no weapons. I hope the truth comes out.

    • As reported by many witnesses, “Kyle” was attempting to leave the scene! Would you have allowed someone to walk away after learning he had just knifed your friend? Sorry but I could not have allowed him to leave either, and if he was resisting, I assume he was inflicted with some rather rough forms of restraint until the cops finally showed!

  • Just My Opinion

    I get tired of the race card getting thrown out every time something happens. Obviously when you have numerous students irate (white, black or whatever) and the police officer doesn’t know what he’s walking into or how people are going to react, doesn’t it make sense to pull out a taiser instead of a gun to control a croud? It’s seems like common sense has become something of the past.

  • Always people at the bottom of the barrel intelligence wise bringing politics into every story.

    • 1984 Leads to 1933

      Is your argument that only ignorant people see the world in lines of race? Then why are these kids “of color” in a racial exclusive club, which is sponsored by an institution of higher learning?

  • The race card has been overplayed. Crying wolf has been call too often to the point that when something real happens, it is not so believable. We can thank Al Sharpton. It is also time to take responsibility of ones own actions, and stop blaming the other guy.

    • HUS mom. liked your blog but not going to happen. that would mean being acting like a grown up. thanks HSU

  • As for the ambulance waiting to be brought in, the situation has to be under control, so it is safe for the ambiance crew. If the other students were so concerned for their friends life, they should have stepped back and made it so the ambulance could come in and do their work… hendoring their work did not help the kid fighting g for his life, and could have made the difference between life and death.

    • Exactly!!!! Why blame EMS for following protical. They have been trained to save lives because they care about people and I doubt there are any EMS or cops here that have refused to help black people. If people had quickly made way and focused only on getting their friend help then he would have been helped quicker. It’s just easier to point fingers than accept responsibility for their mistakes. But to blame the attack AND lack of help on his race is Ludacris.

  • All this over a stolen phone? Why didn’t the people stop the fight before it escalated into survival mode? Sounds like self defense to me.

  • So interesting the differing perspectives involved. The blogger linked to in the story wrote that her belief was the police withheld the suspects mugshot to “protect one of their own”. I felt it was the opposite, that mugshot looks like he took a severe beating. Not releasing it makes the police look biased toward the victim. Not saying either of us is right, just see it differently.

    • They didnt release the suspects photo because they didnt want to bias any witness accounts, plain and simple.

  • All the race debate BS aside, this is a tragedy for HSU, Arcata and Humboldt. Very, very sad event.
    That the University and the community can now use this terrible experience to conduct a deep discussion and self-reflection, with a quantifiable, publicized and an actualized outcome, is the best we can hope for.
    Let us do right in serving Josiah’s memory.

  • This is sad!! Come on, this isn’t what Humboldt is about. Humboldt state,they are supposed to be diverse,have been for a long time. I hope we see the truth soon. My condolences to his family,I’m so sorry!!

    • Actually there is a part of humboldt folks who are like this. In the 90’s the aryan nation was handing out info at mckinleyville high. I know a few people of color who wont go to mckville based on threats. One even while they were getting gas.
      There are 2 all white gangs in mckinleyville with members ranging around age16-25. If you wanna learn about it ask the teen boys. Yes theres also a latino gang,but thats in every city in no hum right now.

      We have a lot of open minded tolerant folks in humboldt but its not this hippie wonderland where everyones nice and environmentally friendly.
      Its a mixed bag, which keeps it interesting, and provides the community with a very wide ranging skill set, from cattle to gardens to beer brewers, etc.

  • I attempted to comment on the blog posting the other day but apparently the author of the blog did not want to approve my comment. I am deeply saddened by the death of a Josiah, it has been weighing heavy on my heart. I did however want to mention that while the hospital is very close to where this occurred, that is not where the ambulances actually are. There is one ambulance base in southern Arcata near the marsh and another near the airport in McKinleyville. They are about 10-15 minutes away, assuming they are not out on other calls and are actually at the one of the bases. Again, this is a terrible event, however I do not believe that any blame should be placed on the EMTs who did in fact arrive in a reasonable time. I am sending love and prayers to all those effected by this and who are hurting from the loss of Josiah. I hope he can be brought to justice.

    • I went back several days and found no deleted posts by you.

    • I dont think the EMTS are to blame, its the police saying it was an unsafe area for them to enter thats the big issue. No matter ur color, seeming super freaked/hysterical seems normal when your friends on the ground bleeding out. If the ambulance was far away why wasnt a private party allowed to drive him?
      From the stories i heard, the police were more worried about some huge riotous situation that wasnt happening than this kids well being. Unfortunately a lot of police hear “black” & “stabbing” in the same sentence and presume its black people stabbing others and thus act on that rather than assessing the situation appropriately.

      For all of you defending the stabber, take a moment and look up his arrest record. Violent offender.
      Im sorry but ive seen some serious ass whoops and the person getting it that bad has no energy to mace and stab. Too bad they cant show the victim, his poor body is torn up a thousand times worse than this jackass.

  • The poor kid who survived this brutal attack is lucky to be alive. Maybe if we start up a group called “United Whites” he would have had some1 come to his aid so he didnt hav2 pull a knife to survive this vicious attack

    • Brothers United=thinly veiled racism

    • mikejy. good idea. maybe start Solders of Odin chapter. there doing good work protecting women and kids .

      • Yes the “brothers” should be xtra careful when they “unite” to jump a white boi he might just have a weapon stay awesome humboldt

    • Kyle provoked the argument over a cell phone. The cops told one of the witnesses that kyle hit a person of color over the head with a bottle just the week before.
      Was he even actually invited to the party or was he seeking trouble? Hmm..

  • From a new documentary on the LA riots 25 years ago, LA 92, this was what a reporter from Time magazine wrote in their may 11, 1992 article a week after the riots. Wish it didnt sound like it could be written today.

    “It had not exactly been unknown that race relations were worsening; a hundred voices had said so. But not until last week did many whites and blacks realize how deep an abyss had been opening at their feet. And last week’s violence is all too likely to make the gulf still wider and deeper. For blacks the acquittal, and for whites the aftermath, tended to confirm each race’s worst fears and suspicions about the other.
    Blacks have far more than police brutality to worry about: high unemployment, widespread poverty, poor schools, drug peddlers and criminals who prey on their neighborhoods. But it is no accident that nearly all the great ghetto riots since the 1960s have been triggered by some incident involving arrested blacks and white cops. To an extent that whites can barely even imagine — because it so rarely happens to them — police brutality to many blacks is an ever present threat to their bodies and lives.
    Indeed, few things more vividly illustrate the extent to which whites and blacks live in different worlds than their reactions to police brutality”

  • I’m a born and raised local who’s lucky enough to trace my lineage both European and Native American from the place of origin of my bloodline in this local area and before settlement here by my European ancestry. I have also, very near and dear black family members. Some of the above commentary is a perfect example of the ignorance that has stunted and perpetuated the stereotypes that lead to more violence throughout time. Unless you have studied this local areas history well, and or have heard it throughout the generations from the people who can trace their lines like myself, it would be easy to forget that there are several places on the north coast where historical documents show massacres and lynchings occured here. It did not occur too long ago, and not just in the south but racially motivated acts of violence happened here also to other people’s of color, our Native American people. It is well documented, HSU sits on Native aboriginal land. You will find that there is a prevelant attitude of entitlement today locally and the comments above not only highlight and encourage this but also lack focus on the very basic right of protection and justice that every person has. Now we are at a point in time where this county is severly lacking in all levels of protection and justice and an increase in population. Our prized college community and our younger generations are losing out because of outdated systems already for the number of people in this area. Public service is severly lacking there are first responders and volunteer fire on reservations and Rancheria locally for gods sake and these are people with less resources and more remote, and not always safe on those lands. Yet where is the plan for Arcata to improve, and how are we helping? All i see is negative comments above no solutions. As for the responsibility of media, who also historically played a negative role in emphasising motives in extreme violence between peoples, I ask wheres the follow up piece showing the interest in protecting our community in the most legal action oriented way? Will city be speaking out or just HSU? To wait for us to lose more of our younger generations to crime isnt working so where are we with improving response protocols?

  • FYI. There was a very good, heartfelt tribute to Josiah (“DJ”) today on KHSU’s ‘Magazine’ show. It featured his mother, pastor/coach, friends, and an Uncle. It was all good memories, and they honored him well.
    YOU CAN LISTEN to at least the first 30 minutes of that near 1 hour tribute (the program was extended to the length required to offer the best tribute to “DJ”) at – http://khsu.org/archives#stream/0

  • The kid that survived this savage attack by a wild troop of urban gorrillas is now the one in a cage. Political correctness will be the downfall of this once great nation. Cheers America! We had it all… Brothers United= thinly veiled racism very sad

    • again, racism is based on a system of oppression. Reverse racism doesn’t exist. “Urban gorillas”?? YOU are the reason the brothers need to stay united. Hope you’re the next one caged. You don’t belong in civil society.

      • Lol reverse racism doesn’t exist? So only whites can be racists? Lol ok mr.kill whitey ur kinda funny and ur whats wrong with this once great nation

  • Here’s something for all to think about….” What would God do?” We are all right in our own belief, two lives have been forever effected by this. One who paid the ultimate price and the other will have many days to think about his actions. I pray that the truth is found and that the Lawson family will be strengthen during this time. The Zoellner family has a lot to deal with as well( why would a 23 yr old feel the need to carry a knife to a party?, What happened in his life where he felt the need to carry a weapon? ). Prayers for the families are forever needed……

  • Sadly, this didn’t affect now family, one young man but 2. The decisions made that night by both parties are to blame. The young man that was killed should have not have partake in beating the one who survived, maybe then he would be alive. Maybe if his buddies had gotten out of the way, and let the ambulance crew get in safely he would still be alive… Obviously Kyle took a beating, and had to fight for his life .

  • Yep, everybody looses. If there is a moral here, it may be – stay out of fights.

    How many people where hitting on this Kyle fellow and for how long? There may be other injuries that don’t show on his face. He looks pretty beat-up.

  • I know I am late to this but, I keep thinking a few things:
    1. Who brought the knife?
    2. Who brought the pepper spray?
    3. Did David Josiah Lawson steal the phone? (and does that make a difference?)

    Other articles say “they pepper sprayed him” but it’s pretty vague. Who is “they” and who is “him”. Was Kyle the one who got sprayed? Yeah, I know people will say it’s ridiculous that I even ask that, but it makes a huge difference.

    Just where is the allegedly stolen phone? Can you imagine if somebody was like “oh wait here it is! It was in my other pocket, duh!”

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