Hank Sims / @ 1:58 p.m. / Crime, Local Government

Kyle Zoellner, Once Suspected of Homicide in David Josiah Lawson Slaying, Files Claim Against City of Arcata For Defamation, Pain and Suffering, Emotional Distress, More


McKinleyville resident Kyle Zoellner, who was arrested and charged with the killing of HSU student David Josiah Lawson last spring before a judge ordered him released, has filed a claim for damages against the city of Arcata and several of its officers and employees.

Zoellner claims that his arrest — which took place “without probable cause,” he charges — has resulted in lost wages, medical bills, loss of personal property, the defamation of his character, pain and suffering and emotional distress. He names numerous Arcata officials and employees — including City Manager Karen Diemer, each member of the City Council, and Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman — as responsible for the damages.

Zoellner was arrested outside a house party in the early morning hours of April 15, where Lawson, 19, had been stabbed to death. He was quickly charged with murder, but released after a several-day hearing that failed to convince the judge that police had gathered enough evidence to hold the suspect.

In the claim, Zoellner writes:

I was physically assaulted and brutally beaten unconscious at 1120 Spear Avenue, Arcata CA, on the morning of April 15, 2017 by multiple assailants. I was taken to a police car by Officer Nielsen of the Arcata Police Department (APD) and detained at the above location for an extended amount time without receiving any medical attention or being taken to a hospital for my injuries. I was still in a semiconscious state due to my injuries during the interrogation with APD. I was arrested without probable cause and transported to the Humboldt County Jail for booking.

I claim the Arcata Police Department (APD) filed a false police report with the Humboldt County District Attorney’s office. I am claiming malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment by APD. I am claiming the search of my home and vehicle and the seizure of my personal property following my arrest was illegal. Also, I claim APD failed to submit a supplemental police report to the Humboldt County District Attorney for the above-mentioned assault when requested. I am claiming defamation of character by employees of the City of Arcata, specifically the City Manager, City Council members, and the Arcata Police Department by means of public statements and press releases.


The Arcata City Council is expected to reject the claim at its regular meeting on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 1. If the council does reject it, Zoellner will be free to file a lawsuit.

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