BALDWIN, La. — The family of Quawan “Bobby” Charles, local activists and other community members took to the streets of a small Louisiana town to demand transparency into the 15-year-old’s disappearance and death.
About 100 people gathered Saturday afternoon at the Baldwin Police Department, which hasn’t been used since the inside was burned in 2018, calling for justice for Bobby. They then marched a half mile to the town’s City Hall, where the police department is now located.
They held signs that said “No justice, no peace” and “Stop killing our sons now.”
“We want cooperation. The family needs the details. They need to know where they’re at in the steps of the investigation,” said Jamal Taylor, an activist with the Village 337. “That mom deserves truth.”
Activists called for the removal of the Baldwin police chief, mayor, Iberia Parish sheriff and coroner.
Bobby was taken without his parents’ permission on Oct. 30 from his Baldwin home. His mother reported him missing about 8 p.m. that night but was told by the Baldwin Police Department he was probably at a football game, said Chase Trichell, an attorney representing the family.
The teen was found dead on Nov. 3 about 20 miles away in a sugar cane field in Loreauville, a small village in Iberia Parish.
The Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a press release Saturday that its office is working to “ensure no stone is left unturned in an effort to find the truth.”
“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,” Iberia Parish Sheriff Tommy Romero said in the release. “Any loss of life is a tragedy and that is especially true when it is a young person.”
In the release, the sheriff’s office said his death was immediately treated as a homicide investigation, which is standard protocol, and investigators have been “aggressively gathering evidence.” Detectives also have interviewed at least one person who saw Bobby before his death near where he was found and have obtained and reviewed video evidence showing him alone in the area before he died.
The sheriff’s office is investigating his death. The Baldwin Police Department is investigating the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.
The Iberia Parish Coroner said in his initial report the drowning was likely the cause of death and that injuries to his face, seen in a picture circulating on social media, are from after his death.
Bobby’s family said they asked the coroner to give the family time to discuss the report but released it anyway. They also have questioned how the teen could have drowned and said there were only a few inches of water near where he was found. They have commissioned an independent autopsy.
A $5,000 reward is also being offered to anyone with information about his death.
“We appreciate (the public) and thank them for supporting us and standing behind us because it could be anybody’s child,” said Celina Charles, Bobby’s cousin who is representing the family. “His death has touched a lot of people.”
The family and activists plan to gather in front of the governors’ mansion in Baton Rouge on Nov. 28 to rally.
Bobby’s death has gained national attention. The New York Times, The Washington Post and TMZ have reported on his death. Beyoncé paid tribute to Bobby on her website with his photo and the words “rest in peace.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is also demanding an independent investigation, according to a statement from Alanah Odoms Hebert, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana.
“The disrespect and lack of transparency demonstrated by local officials in response to Bobby’s tragic and suspicious death is unacceptable,” Odoms Hebert said in a statement. “We join the family in demanding a full and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Bobby’s death.”
A graphic photo of the teen’s body, which Trichell called “gut-wrenching,” has been posted online showing Bobby in what appears to be a body bag, pulled down to reveal his head.
In the photo, a gash marks his hairline over his left eye, while the left side of his face and nose appear to be swollen and rubbed raw and parts of his lips appear to be missing, exposing his teeth.
The Daily Advertiser chose not to share the photo because it is extremely graphic. But Trichell’s office shared it on Facebook to make obvious how heinous his death was.
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY
Follow Ashley White on Twitter @AshleyyDi.