Breaking News
More () »

Family: Sheriff's office & police refused to send Amber Alert & downplayed case of missing Black teen

"If Quawan was a 15-year-old White female, they would have turned the city upside down for her," an activist said.

NEW ORLEANS — Family members of a 15-year-old boy whose body was found in a cane field in Iberia Parish said sheriff's deputies and police officers refused to send out an Amber Alert and downplayed reports of him being missing, a report The New Orleans Advocate | The Times-Picayune said.

Quawan "Bobby" Charles was reported missing after he was last seen on Oct. 30, leaving home without permission with a 17-year-old friend and that friend's mother, The New Orleans Advocate | The Times-Picayune reported on Tuesday.

The 15-year-old was found dead Nov. 2 in a cane field near Loreauville. The family said Bobby's father wasn't notified until Nov. 3, and his mother wasn't notified until Nov. 4. 

Bobby's mother, Roxanne Nelson told members of the media she was suspicious of a knot on his head, saying she believes he was hit.

"He loved me and I loved him," Nelson said.

Celina Charles, the victim's cousin, said the family doesn't trust the results from the autopsy that said he drowned, citing a graphic photo of Bobby's body circulating on social media. 

Suspecting foul play, the family said they're getting an independent autopsy done. 

The family began raising funds to pay for the independent autopsy with a Go Fund Me page that displays the graphic photo juxtaposed with a photo of Emmett Till, a Black 14-year-old from Chicago who was lynched while visiting family in Mississippi in 1955.

"Quawan's face — You can see that it's just about gone," Charles told the Advocate. "The coroner told us that there was no blunt force trauma to the head and no sign of strangulation, but when you look at him, you see something totally different from what the coroner said."

The older teen and his mother, the last two people seen with the victim, were White, like most of Bobby's friends, Charles told the Advocate.

"Quawan trusted his friend of another race," Charles told the Adovcate. "It was somebody he thought he could trust, and now he's not here today."

The family's attorneys – Ron Haley, Dedrick Moore, and Chase Trichell – said police downplayed the family's missing person report.

"Due to the lack of transparency, collective indifference, and moral failings of law enforcement, Bobby’s family has been forced to undertake the serious financial cost and enormous emotional stress of arranging for an independent autopsy in order to get any answers about Bobby’s death," the lawyers said in a prepared statement. "The cost of this independent autopsy was not just financial for Bobby’s family — it has greatly worsened the grieving process by delaying when they can put their child to rest."

After the family reached out, the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office said in a statement on Tuesday, saying deputies were looking into the "suspicious circumstances" surrounding Bobby's death. 

The release also said investigators were still processing evidence, having reached out to the 15-year-old's family amid the growing outrage on social media.

"The Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Investigation continues to investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of a male juvenile, who was discovered by Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office Patrol Deputies on November 3, 2020 near the village of Loreauville.

Investigators have interviewed multiple individuals and collected physical evidence which is being processed. An autopsy has been performed and the results are pending as of this time. Investigators have updated the parents of the juvenile concerning the status of the investigation and will continue to do so throughout the investigation.

Anyone with information concerning this death is urged to contact Detective Jarred Spurlock of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Investigation at 337-369-3711."

The Baldwin Police Department and St. Mary Parish Sheriff's Office refused to send out an Amber Alert when the family asked, the Advocate reported.

Jamal Taylor, a founding member of The Village and Stand Black who's also involved in the NAACP, said Bobby's family reached out to him last week for assistance.

"I saw (photos of the victim), and emotion overwhelmed me. It was like someone punched me in the stomach, and I immediately thought, 'Who in the world can do this to a child?'" Taylor told the Advocate. "If Quawan was a 15-year-old White female, they would have turned the city upside down for her. It blows my mind the blatant disregard the police department had for the wellbeing of a Black child."

As investigators continue looking for clues and talking to people who may have known, seen or heard anything to find out who killed the victim, how and why, the investigation into the killing is far from over, but law enforcement said they're willing to hear from people with information.

Anyone willing to share information that can help police in the investigation can call CrimeStoppers at 504.822.1111 or toll-free 1.877.903.7867

This is a developing story, and it will be updated with the latest information available. Stick with WWLTV.com for the latest news.

► Get breaking news from your neighborhood delivered directly to you by downloading the FREE WWL-TV News app now in the IOS App Store or Google Play.

‎Stay up-to-date with the latest news and weather in the New Orleans area on the all-new free WWL TV app. Our app features the latest breaking news that impacts you and your family, interactive weather and radar, and live video from our newscasts and local events. LOCAL & BREAKING NEWS * Receive r...