[Audio] Facts and differing views on Arcata stabbing; Humboldt’s last week of news

In the latest episode of Humboldt Last Week: HSU student David Josiah Lawson tragically lost his life after he was stabbed to death at an off-campus house party. 23 year old Kyle Zoellner was arrested for the crime and plead not guilty to murder with bail set at $1 million. The story begins at 8:00.

“There was definitely an argument that occurred involving several people, Zoellner included,” said Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman. “…The knife that was recovered at the scene is being processed for evidence. It was submitted to the (forensic lab)… If there are fingerprints, it’s something that would be brought up in the court process.”

The Times Standard reported the suspect admitted to fighting with the victim.

Zoellner has a preliminary hearing tentatively set for May 1 at the Humboldt County Courthouse.

Unproven speculation

A friend of the victim told North Coast News he believes the crime was racially motivated — the victim was black and the suspect is white. He also said a friend of the victim disarmed the suspect.

A friend of the suspect told his family he was knocked out at the time of the stabbing and there’s no way he could have committed to crime. They say the suspect is not racist and they hope the real murderer is found.

People can’t seem to agree on how the fighting started, when and why mace was used, the words that were exchanged, whether the suspect had a knife, and whether or not the suspect was conscious at the time of the stabbing.

The friend of the victim also accused police and medical responders of not helping as much due to racism. The top public comment on that Mad River Union article post reads “… I get his friend was murdered and I feel for him and everyone else (affected) by this tragedy however his accusations that (everyone) is racist shows his own vision is clouded.” Another top comment referring to a first-hand experience outside of Arcata partially reads “don’t doubt for a second that these first responders react to people (of) color differently than white people.”

In the podcast, comments made by an Arcata City Councilwoman, another friend of the suspect, and the father of the victim are also shared.

“…The focus is justice and the focus is the criminal investigation,” Chapman said. “A lot of rocks are being thrown at the APD but at the end of the day there’s a mom that is mourning the loss of her son. There’s a 19 year old who’s been murdered and we have to stay committed to them.”

Remember David Josiah Lawson

KHSU host Lorna Bryant sat down with those close to the victim, including his mother.

“…Growing up DJ played soccer, tee-ball, he was just energetic — he was full of life, he didn’t like staying inside,” said Charmaine Lawson. “…One of the brothers from Brothers United (his fraternity) said you know you lost your son, but you just gained 15 more sons. And right there I was just overjoyed when they said that. It made me feel really good that he spent time with these young men and they were doing positive things. I cannot tell you I’m not sad and broken… I love you guys so very much and I appreciate everything you’ve done for DJ — for Josiah like you guys call him.”

Also covered

Humboldt’s unemployment rate versus neighbors, a minivan with the bear necessities, a question about transporting weed by air, the “Finding Bigfoot” finale, tsunami preparedness, a guide for Arcata students on the move looking donate or recycle, an airborne car, a movie-star ship, a workplace tragedy, and more.

David Josiah Lawson and Kyle Zoellner

David Josiah Lawson and Kyle Zoellner



  • Sounds like the friend of the victim that is playing the race card is a complete ignorant idiot. Guy shows up at 3 am to pick up his girl and friends but had intentions to stab black people because he was white? Far-fetched. The friend of the victim they mention, wasn’t that one of the 3 guys that beat the white guy unconcious?

    I don’t kno, in my opinion if 3 people were attacking me and didn’t stop and if I felt endangered, I’d do anything to stop the situation.

    • Ya but you are white, and born and raised a racist, so your opinion doesn’t matter (sarcasm) this is what is being forced into our brains these days, and I belive it makes racism so much worse, and situations like this worse than they already are. Imo

      • This steams from there being a (relatively) new concept of “racism”. The notion that racism is a societal level phenomena with an oppressed party and a privileged party. In this notion, any member of the “privileged” party is inherently racist because they have benefited from institutionalized racism in society, even if that person holds no racist views. Conversely it is impossible for a member of the oppressed party to be racist, even if they hold personal views that we would recognize as overtly racist.

        Of course there are some very obvious logical problems with this divisive view.

    • You mean the white guy who stabbed someone?

    • Why did he show up to a party with a knife? He was out looking for trouble

      • How do you know the suspect showed up to the party with a knife? We don’t know if it was his knife or even if the suspect’s fingerprints or DNA are on the knife. All we know for sure is someone was stabbed and a knife was recovered. Let’s see what the forensics reveal.

  • Don’t most guys carry a knife of some sort? We’re in construction and the crew all carry them. This whole story sounds crazy,and a little hard to believe. Glad when the truth comes out. I hope for everyone🕊

    • sharpen your pencil

      I have a fixed blade in my rig. I don’t carry one. No need to, if someone had a gun that’s that. But if someone has anything other than a gun I am going to ruin their face. I don’t look for fights though, but if that’s what someone wants I will definitely give them the ass whooping they so badly desire…. WTF ever happened to MEN settling things with their hands when things get physical? So many cowards are afraid of getting their asses whopped, if that’s the case maybe they shouldn’t be looking to start shit.

    • How can you be sure the truth hasn’t come out? Or are you hoping for a different truth?

      • Somewhere in this story the truth is there. That’s all I was trying to say.im sure the truth did come out,but who do you believe. It’s a shame it had to be a race thing.

    • No…they don’t…I’ve never walked into a party with a knife

  • I feel that some black people participate in a subculture that includes certain patterns of behavior. Acting In an extremely animated and emotional manner is part of this subculture, as is resisting arrest.

    I once had a black coworker explain to me why black guys are “flashy” and will do things like will very slowly swagger across a crosswalk, whereas a white person would sort of hurry up and cross out of courtesy to drivers. He said that a history of oppression, in which black people were not allowed to have such attitudes and were forced to be submissive, causes many modern black people to culturally rebel and be extra, flashy, loud and in some sense discourteous.

    I wonder if this help explain why some black people delay in complying with orders from law enforcement. In this case, the LEO’s may have asked for the crowd to make room and the crowd may not have complied as quickly as an all-white crowd would.

    • Cptn Jack Harkness TW

      Do you actually realize how racist your post is? OF COURSE NOT Seriously Humboldt is not a wellspring of diversity but honestly how pathetic it is that you are doing this fake ass Humboldt liberal trademark pretending to have a grip on racism by adding the word “some” to an insane rationalization worthy of a tweet of a moron such as the the Treasonous Trump and don’t even notice that… Pathetic that you are so uneducated.

    • hmm…………. You might not mean to be saggin’ but you ARE showing your azz. Pull up your pants, please. The view from here is not pretty.

  • Humboldt County’s Nazi NAMBLA brigades are working overtime to paint the victim as somehow responsible for his own stabbing.

    • Nobody's blaming the victim.

      I dont read that at all, besides a handful of comments speculating the suspect might have been defending himself. I do read plenty of comments expressing distaste over refering to the murder as racially motivated, and references to the first responders as racist as well. Am I wrong?

    • LOL, nazi nambla brigade, someone’s working overtime for sure. When did this story become about German socialist pedophilia rings? Maybe you should put down the pipe and just stick to the racist murder narrative that is already spinning wildly out of control.

  • This thread is about five comments away from sounding like a KKK bake sale.

    • Klan bake sale is right.

      Some of you folks should be ashamed of yourselves. You talk like you were at the scene and witnessed the murder.

      A mother lost her son.

  • White , wrong, or indifferent. I feel the white guy was fighting for his life I don’t think he stabbed anyone being unconscious

    • I’m pretty sure that that facts trump feelings in a court of law, so there’s thankfully that…..

      And btw, MOGTX, there is nothing, “indifferent,” about your feeling above. Two out of three ain’t bad though, partner… (You’ll always have white and wrong.)

  • The young man making statements of how Law enforcement and EMT’s are racist is himself the racist, ignorant person. EMS does not enter the scene until the scene is safe, IE law enforcement contacts them from the radio and tells them to proceed to the patient. EMS has no protection other then law enforcement and I dont care who the patient is, they will not enter a scene until they are cleared. If law enforcement cant make sure its safe for the emt’s then its the crowds fault that the victim did not receive prompt treatment. Also the comment by one of the victims friends that the ambulance told him to get the F*ck out of the ambulance shows the friend hampering care and prompt treatment. The friends hold much of the blame not the people who are underpaid and required to help you.

    • Good observation. As a mom of a Humboldt student I find this whole situation horrific. A woman lost her son. The pain will last forever. This sounds like a disgusting case of crowd chaos. Everybody is guilty in some way. Why even attend even at a party like that??? Have these young adults ever considered studying, or creating, instead of hanging out in an explosive situation. Obviously this group knew this could be a volital gathering. People were waiting for the match to ignite the fire. Carrying knives in a college town? No one just out for a good time packs a knife!!! I thought the young people in Arcata were more intelligent and compassionate. Everybody needs to get off their rascist high horses and remember a young man is dead!
      Love, Mom

  • Could be anything

    Hopefully the truth will come out. I thinks it’s going to be hard though with one group claiming rascist issues all across the board and the other claiming that they were the victim and defending themselves. Condolences to both families. I hope that truth and honesty prevails.

  • Tired of the crime

    I don’t know why, but whenever I hear some black person scream racism, especially when it’s against the people trying to save a black mans life, [edit] Tired of blacks claiming they are victims of hate crimes, bottom line is black people seem a hell of a lot more racist than whites these days. Thanks obama

    • Dear White People

      Sad that you don’t understand the reality of the world you live in.

      The Pacific Northwest is one of the most racist regions in this country. Rather than face that truth, people like you disavow the sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle racism that exists all around us. You are a part of the problem. And there are a LOT of people in our country, county and region just like you. Because YOU are tired of blacks claiming they are victims of hate crime, I guess blacks should just stop complaining, eh? How about no.

      And your final quip blaming Obama just shows how ignorant you truly are. If you are tired of the crime, you might want to discuss that with the people that constitute the majority of the population and crime here – WHITE PEOPLE.

  • I think more then racism there are stereotypes that all of us carry about people, places, foods, anything really. Unfortunately, depending on where and when you are born and how you are raised and the current political climate, stereotypes can have have very strong underlying influence on how situations are perceived. I think we’re all aware of the old blot picture that is used to demonstrate how everyone can perceive the same image much differently, the same is true of any situation, especially when perceptions are altered and negatively enhanced or emotions heightened with drugs and alcohol. The strong underlying influence of social media, and television also create stereotypes that can cause people to unconsciously make judgments about situations and people that might look or behave differently, for whatever reason. Humboldt County is a very isolated area, with limited interactions with outside “different” populations aside from students. Perceptions of outsiders are often based not on actually knowing other populations, but on stereotypes perpetuated by media, and this goes both ways, for the people coming to Humboldt, and for those living here. Getting out of your personal comfort zone and communicating and building relationships with those from vastly different backgrounds and cultures can be amazingly rewarding, and oftentimes humbling, for everyone involved. Years ago I was in Portland with my daughter who was driving on a busy street, and there was someone very close to walking in front of the car. I said “Watch out for the black guy”
    My daughter asked me why I said black guy, and not just watch out for that guy. Would I have said watch out for the blonde guy? Probably not. I come from a generation raised in the north where Japanese were “japs” black people weren’t really in the suburbs, and I have hoped and tried to break the training of these stereotypes, but sometimes to my shame they still slip through. But perhaps being aware of stereotyping is the first step to growth and positive individual and cultural change.

    • Could be anything

      I think we are overthinking the whole alleged racist problem. As someone who used to work in law enforcement you have to use race as an identifying factor. Along with length and color of hair, tattoos or no visible tats, height weight and build. Visible scars, limp and whether male or female. Pretty soon it will become politically incorrect to identify anyone. Human or not human. That’s it. I don’t like racist comments and racist ideology either. It’s not ok. But we need to get past the pointing fingers and accusing of people of all colors of being racist when racism is not the intent. I do believe that blogs like those on LOCO perpetuates hate and racism. They motivate the divide between people and instigate a bias. Thank you Kym. I don’t see that on your site. There are a few haters but the majority of your people are considerate, open minded and caring people.

  • Sadder than tears

    Well. If I still had kids in their youth, the takeaway for me to them would be: if a party starts getting heated and angry, get out now. Don’t stay to see the end. Drunk people are unreasonable and unable to be helped. Let the douche bags fight it out amongst themselves.

  • Kym, I would like to highlight the fact that if these roles were reversed, the alleged murderer would have his booking photo being published everywhere.

    • N, the alleged murderer did have his booking photo published everywhere–including at least twice on my website. When the family of the suspect provided another photo, I used it out of fairness. I’m pretty dang sure I’d do the same for the suspect/defendant no matter what his race–a cornerstone of our democracy is that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. That feels a little flimsy when we only use a mugshot to portray the suspect.

  • TryNot2beAd1ck

    No one is talking about the fact that the suspect and his white friends were slinging the N-word at the victim, while accusing him of stealing one of their phones (which was apparently in her purse still?). Even as he lay dying, the girls were still calling him the N-word, and saying other awful things. If you can’t see the racism in those actions, I’m not sure where to start the conversation.

    As far as first responders go, that’s a more complex discussion. I don’t think anyone is saying they hate black people and wanted Josiah to die. However, it does sound like they allowed fear to possibly slow the process of attending to him. An unfounded fear. Imagine if he was surrounded by upset white kids. Would it have taken them so long to reach him?

    These comment sections have made me really sad for Humboldt county, and the world. Please, take a deep breath and open your eyes to what happens every day in this country, and the inequities that run deep. It’s the first step…

    • Hey TryNot2beAd1ck, the EMT’s are not allowed to go into a situation like this without clearance from the responding officers. Boom!! There is the reason they did not rush in to save a life. It does not matter who is lying there wounded….they HAVE to wait for clearance for their own safety. So if you wanna blame anybody for the EMT’s not being able to get in there and do their job blame all the dumb asses not clearing the area.

  • Suggesting EMT’s do they’re job according to race is insane. That comment should have not been givin any steem by the local media.

    • Jason, that entire story from Mr Chandler should never been given any steem by the local media. If anything he only hurt his friend DJ Lawson with his utterly complete racist BS.

  • Emotions get involved in every serious case like this. I say let’s try the case in a court of law after a full investigation. Hopefully the facts will prevail.

  • This is a sad situation indeed, my heart goes out to all involved… my burning question is this: why were the 2 girls carrying mace to a party & then when everyone is tanked up at 3am they were so quick to use it? They were closely involved, yet they weren’t an eyewitness to the crime? Something’s fishy here. Mr. Lawson died; does this make the girls at all culpable for the role they played in nearly blinding Mr. Lawson, (acc. to Chandler who did CPR?)
    It’s been a few years, but I partied as a student at HSU, even on the same street as this tragedy occurred. Things were sure different.

    • Many people carry mace/pepperspray on their keychain, this is not uncommon what so ever. And it sounds like they used it when Mr Z was being beat by a number of men. Does that answer your burning question? And as for Mr Chandler’s account I do not believe a word he has said, do to the fact that all he has spewed is racist BS.

  • “Ren, who stabbed you?”

    • I heard from a very reliable resource that she had NO stab wounds (to her arms which is what she is saying) when she went to school Monday to say she would be out for a few days!!!

  • Why is it that so many people ask: “why would someone show up to a party with a knife?” We live in Humboldt and I would wager that 90% of the men in Humboldt carry a knife of some sort. My wife carries a small knife in her purse…….used for many different things like getting slivers out, cutting salami – cheese and whatever else!!!! Call me weird but I find that question odd. My question would be what kind of knife was it or how big of a knife? Or if this happened at a house party hell it could very well have been a kitchen knife.

  • This story becomes more and more suspicious as the testimony continues. I am beginning to think somebody stabbed the wrong guy and made sure the suspect (who they and their little cadre of party pals had already beat to hell) got the blame. If that is true, I cannot wait to see these charges dismissed. If this is as straightforward as the party pals paint it, and the very likely prospect of perjury at this point does not go against that narrative, then I look forward to him serving a fair and just sentence for it.

    As for injecting race into this, it becomes very suspicious when a small group of people who have been involved in several lower-grade confrontations, ‘misunderstandings’, fights and incidents around Arcata and McKinleyville suddenly are ‘victims of racist acts’. I suspect the victim’s friend knows something and is covering for it by trying to stir up emotion and sympathy based on their skin otherness, as opposed to acknowledging and taking responsibility for their behavioral otherness.

  • All of you small town redkneck biggotts are going to have a hell of a time adapting to this world that will eventually be a nice even shade of brown. So many of you people on this thread sound like you have barely ever stepped outside the city limits of Ferndale. This planet is a giant beautiful multicultural melting pot of race and ethnicity…. and it’s coming for you!!! Lock your doors! Hide your daughters!! Your all gonna have a bunch of mixed race grandchildren!!! You racist kooks are a dying breed. Enjoy your last hurrah because your great grandchildren will all be brown bi-sexual environmentalists!!! AaaaaaAhhhhhhggggghhhh!!!

    • Make me laugh! Thanks.

      • Thinking allowed

        Again it is unclear. Is this sarcasm?

        BTW I have lived (lived, not vacationed) around the world and it is in general the exact opposite of the “multicultural melting pot.” The Japanese like being Japanese, the Chinese Chinese, the Tamil objected to being dominated by India, the Palestinians are not really wanting to become Israelis, the European Union member states are not in bed comfortably despite the intense efforts of the few, etc, etc etc. It happens but never without conflict.

        And why should any culture anywhere go gladly into the oblivion of appropriation, even if that seems so special to those in some backwoods university town? Cultural extinction does happen but those so deprived are rarely happy about it.

  • After reading this and loco, unless I am mistaken has there been any evidence of any kind on who actually did the stabbing? It seems he was arrested because people told the cops he did it, possibly the same people who had just ganged up on him beating him unconscious. I’m not using the term “ganged up” because of race but because there was at least 3 of them. Yet none of them has admitted to seeing the stabbing. There are other possibilities, however unlikely of who’s knife it was and who did the stabbing. It seems at this time it could of been the victims knife and he could of accidentally fatally wounded himself, it could of also been either one of the girlfriends. Or even another idivual involved in the conflict that has yet to be named. I’m far from a expert, but with the evidence that has been presented it seems a little premature to charge him with murder as they have nothing to prove intent, or even that he he was indeed the one holding the weapon. I’m sure more evidence will come out in this case, but doesn’t it possibly seem early to be making it all about race, before and after the fact, when there is a chance that he isn’t even the person responsible?

    • Thinking allowed

      I guess that is why so many virulent opinions are distressing. There seems to be an atmosphere of hang first then sort it out. Because some are already absolutely sure that justice has no chance.

      Frankly no matter what the findings are now, there are those on both extremes who will never believe that any decision is fair. And with cause. Because they will have plenty of evidence that justice is the thing least wanted in the whole process.

      The only chance justice has, and it’s a shaky one in the best of circumstances, it to keep it from being a circus. It would sure be nice if it was at least given a chance before the Tsunami of hate is given free rein.

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