Citing emotional distress caused by the Arcata Police Department’s handling of the investigation into the death of David Josiah Lawson, an attorney representing Charmaine Lawson filed a civil claim against the city of Arcata seeking a minimum of $500,000, the North Coast Journal reported Monday.
The filing, made by local civil rights attorney Shelley Mack, is the latest in a flurry of updates that come during a week when the community has mournfully commemorated the anniversary of the HSU student’s killing at a party on April 15, 2017. Less than a week ago Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman resigned, suddenly, and former FBI agent Tom Parker, who had been brought in to consult on the case, announced that he would be stepping down from his role. Parker, for his part, has been making the media rounds to discuss his views on the case. He and Mack appeared on KHSU earlier today, and an interview is scheduled to appear on North Coast News tonight.
Lawson’s family has long been critical of the handling of the case, accusing officers and the city of incompetence and negligence.
In response to the civil claim, the City of Arcata sent out an at times oddly worded statement from the Arcata City Council that calls into question the timing of Parker’s decision to leave the case. Read it below:
Most importantly, the City’s commitment to solving David Josiah Lawson’s case has not waivered [sic].
The City is concerned about how the timing of Tom Parker’s departure from the case coincides with the filing of a claim by Attorney Shelley Mack and their multiple interviews with the media. Furthermore, the City is troubled that certain statements made by Mr. Parker publicly could endanger the investigation.
The City appreciates the assistance received from Tom Parker. Further the City agrees with Tom Parker that this case should and can be solved, which is why it remains our highest priority.
There is an active and committed investigative team in place between the Arcata Police Department and the investigators with the District Attorney’s Office. Keeping this team in place provides the continuity and institutional case knowledge required to bring the case to completion. In November, Mr. Parker completed a review of the investigation. The Council met with Mr. Parker in December who painted a picture of the investigation that is very contrary to his recent media commentary.
Over the last several months the City became concerned about potential disclosure of confidential case information. Breaches of his non-disclosure agreement would be damaging to a fragile investigation and as a result the City took steps to protect the integrity of the case. This included withholding certain case strategy and information.
The City received a claim on Friday filed by local attorney Shelley Mack. Such a claim is not uncommon to be filed in these types of cases to preserve the family’s legal options. This claim in addition to the previous claim from Kyle Zoellner further restricts the City from releasing information about the investigation or steps the City is taking to bring resolution.
The City understands that with the flurry of media comments and unproven allegations being made there are lots of questions. Many of these questions will be answered in due time, through case proceedings.
The events of this last week have not deterred the investigative team from their ultimate purpose, which is to deliver a prosecutable case on behalf of David Josiah Lawson.