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Quawan ‘Bobby’ Charles: What We Know About the Suspicious Death of the Louisiana Teen

Maria Perez
Nov 16, 2020 - 5:03

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Local activists and community members in Baldwin, Louisiana, gathered with the family of Quawan “Bobby” Charles, a Black teen who disappeared in October and was found dead days later.

On Nov. 14, about 100 people gathered at the former Baldwin Police Department and marched towards City Hall, demanding justice and answers for Quawan, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser reported. 

What We Know

Ron Haley, one of the attorneys representing the 15-year-old’s family, told The New York Times that Quawan’s mother had planned to pick the teen up from his father’s house on Oct. 30 but he did not answer his cellphone. By 7 p.m., his parents began to worry and knocked down his bedroom door, realizing that he was gone. 

Chase Trichell, another attorney representing Quawan’s family, told the Lafayette Daily Advisor that the teen’s mother reported him missing soon after but was told by the Baldwin Police Department that he was probably out at a football game. Haley added that there was no Amber Alert issued the night Quawan went missing.

Haley told The Times that the family discovered the teen had been picked up by Janet Irvin and her son without their permission. Quawan went to their home located in Iberia Parish, but it is unclear how or why he left the home.  

“It appears that something hateful happened to Bobby,” Haley told The Times. “Whether this was an intentional act or grossly negligent indifference for human life, it’s still horrible.”

On Nov. 3, Quawan was found dead 20 miles away from Baldwin in a sugar cane field in Loreauville. After Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputies found the teen’s body, a homicide investigation was launched. In the initial report from the Iberia Parish Coroner’s office obtained by The Times, Quawan’s cause of death was cited as drowning and the injuries on his face were attributed to “aquatic animal activity.” 

Advocates have compared the injuries of Quawan’s face to the face of Emmett Till, a Black teen who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 by two white men. The family has commissioned an independent autopsy.

Haley noted that while there are bodies of water by the sugar cane fields where Quawan’s body was found, none are deeper than two feet.  

“If in fact he did die of drowning — and we’re saying that as an if — we’re calling into question how exactly that would have happened,” Haley told The Times. “Can somebody who’s 5-foot-6 typically drown in two feet of water? No, not unless there’s another cause associated with that.”

On Nov. 14, Iberia Parish Sheriff Tommy Romero said in a statement that surveillance video obtained by law enforcement shows the teen walking around the area where his body was found. Romero said no other person can be seen in the video. 

“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,” Romero said in a statement obtained by KLFY. “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.”

Justice for Quawan

In an interview with The North Star, Trichell said the family described Quawan as “a calm spirit” who “loved to fish” and had a dog that he loved. 

The attorney criticized the Baldwin Police Department and the Iberia Sheriff’s Department for not issuing an Amber Alert or not notifying those in the neighboring area of a missing child. 

“This begs the questions: Why did Baldwin PD not alert neighboring parishes? Why was there no of issue an amber alert? Why was this not brought to social media? They completely disregarded the fears of the family,” Trichell told TNS.

The attorney said while demanding answers about the teen’s disappearance and death, there are plans to lobby the state legislature for a law on missing children named after the teen. 

“We want to give the family a little bit of justice and peace so Quawan didn’t die in vain,” Trichell said.

The Louisiana NAACP has also demanded transparency in the case from law enforcement officials.

“We demand accountability and transparency with regards to the processes and procedures followed by law enforcement officials in the unusual circumstances surrounding in his death,” the organization said in a statement obtained by KATC. “We ask the Louisiana State Police, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to work with local law enforcement officials as we seek to find answers.”

Meanwhile, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has yet to comment on Quawan’s disappearance and death. The North Star has reached out to the governor’s office for comment but did not receive a response. 

How to Help

Here are some ways to help Quawan’s family and to hold those responsible accountable: 

1.Local activist Andre Arceneaux has launched a GoFundMe for Quawan’s family to help raise money for the “burial, autopsy, and additional costs that may arise,” according to the page description. Click here to donate and learn more.

2. Call the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s office at (337) 369-2485 to demand transparency and hold those responsible for Quawan’s death accountable. 

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