LAFAYETTE, La. (NewsNation Now) — The family of a missing Black teenager who was later found dead in a canal is questioning the police department’s response after they first reported him missing.
Quawan “Bobby” Charles, 15, was reported missing by his mother shortly after 8 p.m. on Oct. 30 after being picked up by a friend and the friend’s mother without Charles’ parent’s consent. According to the family, no Amber Alert was issued and they were not taken seriously, being told their son was probably at a football game.
Charles’ family and civil rights activists in the community have criticized the police department’s handling of the investigation, demanding more transparency in the case.
Baldwin Assistant Chief of Police Samuel Wise said officers “did everything by the book.”
Members of several civil rights organizations have since joined Charles’ family in demanding accountability from authorities and city officials.
Jamal Taylor of “Stand Black” feels that the Baldwin Police Department and St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office dropped the ball.
“They didn’t do what they could have done to save his life,” said Taylor during a protest march on Nov. 14.
Iberia Parish Sheriff Tommy Romero released a statement the same day with additional details — including surveillance video of the area near where Charles was found dead.
Romero says the footage shows Charles walking around the area where his body was later discovered and that no other person was seen in the video.
The surveillance footage can be watched in the player below.
“I want to assure the public that I, and my team, are doing everything we can, and following every lead, to gather evidence into what happened in the untimely death of Quawan “Bobby” Charles,” said Romero. “Any loss of life is a tragedy and that is especially true when it is a young person. Although we believe it is important not to compromise any part of our investigation, we are prepared to release some details so that the public can be assured we are not resting in our effort to find the truth.”
On Nov. 16, an independent autopsy was released which reiterates the Iberia Parish Coroner’s Office’s findings that Charles died from possible drowning.
The autopsy, from a company called American Forensics, discovered evidence of a possible drowning, which they noted the first autopsy also reported. NewsNation affiliate KLFY obtained a copy of the independent autopsy. It noted that the Iberia Parish Coroner’s Office’s exam “appears thorough,” but did not add anything to the original autopsy.
American Forensics’ autopsy report is pictured below.
The report also indicated no sign of trauma sustained or disease suffered while the teen was still alive.
While Baldwin police claim they started investigating Charles’ disappearance on Oct. 30, Iberia Parish officials say they were not aware of the teen’s disappearance until Nov. 3. That’s when Charles’ family contacted the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Iberia Parish authorities found Charles’ body in Loreauville, Louisiana, after pinging his cellphone. His body was found in a canal close to a field near the home of the family last seen with Charles, according to Charles’ family.
“You cannot just take somebody’s son, bring them to your house, and not be held accountable for them because he was in your custody,” Roxanne Nelson, Charles’ mother, said.
Baldwin Police are now facing criticism from Charles’ family as well as on social media.
“Facebook and social media has caused so much within my department. We receive threats every day. We receive emails every day, and some of the guys are wondering are we going to be OK?” Wise told KLFY.
On Saturday, protesters marched through the streets to the Baldwin Police Department. Protesters chanted “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” and many protesters said police would have taken Charles’ case more seriously if he was white.
“This report, we took it so serious. Not just because it was a 15-year-old Black kid, but because it was a 15-year-old kid,” Wise added.
Wise says color did not play a factor into their handling of the case.
“Threats, all that my brothers and sisters, needs to stop. Enough is enough. Enough is enough,” he said. “Baldwin went as far as Baldwin could go with this investigation. The rest of this investigation now belongs with the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.”
Chase Trichell, an attorney representing Charles’ family, is questioning why Baldwin Police did not notify local media about his disappearance.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the Amber Alert specifically,” Trichell said. “If State Police has elucidated that not every missing child case leads do an Amber Alert, that is acceptable because there’s another protocol in place called a Level Two Missing Child Protocol. It’s a media advisory. The state police has a database of media outlets, and they disseminate a form to each of those media outlets. Quawan Charles for whatever reason was not treated as a Level Two missing child, even though his case would have been perfect for that.”
Trichell said video Baldwin Police released showing Charles leaving his home with two individuals the day he went missing does little to prove that the police department followed protocol.
Trichell compared other missing person cases in St. Mary Parish that were treated much differently to the case involving Quawan Charles.
“You’ve got Jessica Marie Rowe, an adult from Baldwin. You know what they did? They put it on the media. They blasted the story widely. Daniela Colindres, a 17-year-old. They stated she’s not in imminent danger, yet they still put it on the media on the same day, and guess what. She was found the same day. Logan Stevens, a 14-year-old out of St. Mary Parish, they put it on the media. Emma Claire Dugas. Amelia Rubio, a 30-year-old. This list goes on and on,” Trichell added.
The Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating Charles’ death as a homicide and is awaiting a toxicology report to gain additional evidence.
Charles’ public funeral will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 21 at the West St. Mary Civic Center on La. 318 in Jeanerette, Louisiana.
NewsNation affiliate KLFY contributed to this report.