Louisiana Teen Quawan Charles Laid to Rest as Family Questions Police Decision-Making: 'They Could’ve Done More'

Illustration for article titled Louisiana Teen Quawan Charles Laid to Rest as Family Questions Police Decision-Making: They Could’ve Done More
Photo: Celina Charles and the family of Quawan Charles

Quawan “Bobby” Charles, a Black 15-year-old boy who died under “suspicious” circumstances earlier this month, was honored with a funeral service on Saturday, as his family still searches for answers regarding his death.

“You slowly have brought our family together to support one another, express our true feelings and connect on a more intimate level,” Quawan’s sister Eve Greenberg said at the service, according to KLFY TV. “We will forever hold the memories of you and the memories we wish we could have had with you close to our hearts.”

Celina Charles, Quawan’s cousin and spokesperson for the family, read a letter from his mother, Roxanne Nelson.

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“I’m missing you, but I’ll wait until the day I can see you again,” she wrote. “Quawan, I will love you for all eternity, Mom.”

Quawan’s father, with whom he recently moved in before his death, also shared a note addressed to his son.

“He would want us to remember him fishing, spending time with his cousins. Goodbye, my son, you will be in our hearts forever.”

Nelson recently gave her first on-camera interview to Good Morning America on Saturday, giving a frank assessment on how Louisiana police handled her son’s disappearance and subsequent death.

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“They could’ve done more. They didn’t. They didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” Nelson told GMA. “Had they done what they were supposed to do, my son would be alive today. I feel because my son was Black, it didn’t matter to them.”

“I cannot sleep at night, like I want to,” Nelson said. “I’m constantly thinking about my son and trying to figure out exactly how he died.”

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As The Root reported on Nov. 11, Quawan went missing on Oct. 30. According to Selina Charles, Nelson immediately flagged her son as missing to Baldwin police officers, who dismissed her concerns.

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“They brushed her off,” Charles family attorney Ronald Haley told The Root. “They told her things such as ‘Look, he’s probably at a football game. He’s probably with some friends.’ Basically, don’t worry about it.”

Quawan’s body was found three days later in a creek in a sugar cane field about 20 miles away, with a local coroner’s office ruling Quawan’s cause of death as drowning. A friend of Quawan’s told the family he had seen the teen in a car with a white woman and her teenage son; the mother later admitted that she had picked up Quawan that afternoon so the two boys could “hang out” together.

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They may have been the last people to see Quawan alive.

Baldwin police never issued an Amber Alert for Quawan’s disappearance, nor did they get in contact with local media as they had done in previous cases of missing children.

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From ABC News:

According to Chase Trichell, an attorney for the family, under a recently modified statute, any Louisiana law enforcement agency that becomes aware of a missing child must immediately notify the state police, which then determines whether it’s an Amber Alert or media advisory case. The latter would have alerted neighboring parishes like Iberia, he said, where Charles’ body was found four days after he was first reported missing.

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The case is currently being handled by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, who found Quawan the same day Nelson reported her son missing to the department. They located the teen’s body by pinging his cell phone. Nelson and family attorneys representing Quawan’s family questioned why those measures hadn’t been taken sooner.

“Had they followed state law, would Quawan be alive today?” Trichell asked.

“We don’t think they looked at Quawan and saw their own children. We don’t think that his life was high enough on the totem pole for them to exhaust all resources,” the attorney said.

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IPS confirmed that they were treating Quawan’s death as a homicide investigation, “just as we do in any case involving someone found deceased in this manner.”

The department also says it has video showing Quawan was alone near where his body was later found.

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But local activist Jamaal Taylor pointed out to The Root that the community’s concerns go well beyond what happened to Quawan when he disappeared. They also want an investigation into why local law enforcement seemed to treat his case so differently.

“If Quawan was a little white girl, Louisiana would be turned upside down right now trying to figure out what happened,” Taylor said. We want the officers involved that took no action placed on leave. We need an investigation into what happened and why they failed to issue an Amber alert at the time of the report of this young man going missing. And, more importantly, why they blew it off and told the parents to go look for the child at a football game.”

Staff writer, The Root.

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DISCUSSION

I’m almost certain this won’t get the attention it deserves until it becomes a depressing Netflix documentary, and then those cops are going to be getting nasty messages and saying to themselves:
“Hey, we did our job as incompetent and racist as we possibly could...our hands are tied!”