Family of La. Boy, 15, Who Died Suspiciously Thinks Police Blew Off Disappearance Due to Racism

A Black Louisiana teen's disappearance and mysterious death has led his family to question whether local law enforcement took its concerns seriously after the 15-year-old went missing.

Quawan “Bobby” Charles was at his father's home Oct. 30 when he apparently left with a 17-year-old friend and the friend's mother, both white, who showed up while the father was out shopping, according to Charles family members. But his family didn't learn that detail until three days later from a thirdhand source, an attorney for the family tells PEOPLE.

After his family reported Quawan missing Oct. 30, police in Baldwin first suggested to Quawan's family that he might have gone off to a football game, and questioned whether he had a troubled past, says attorney Ron Haley. Then they allegedly didn't try to ping his cell phone until three days later, says Haley.

“That’s how they knew where to narrow the search for him,” he says.

The teen's body was found Nov. 3 in a sugar cane field near the village of Loreauville, about 25 miles from his Baldwin home, the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office said in a Nov. 5 news release.

Local media picked up the story only after the family went public following the discovery — and an aunt posted a graphic photo of the victim on a GoFundMe page seeking donations to pay for a private autopsy, Haley says.

Although authorities told the family that Quawan had drowned, the cane field holds a minimal amount of water, and the photo indicates additional injury to the victim, he says.

An autopsy has been performed, according to the sheriff's office, but results were not released.

The family's perceived "indifference" and "lack of empathy" by local law enforcement between the missing persons report and the discovery of the teen's body makes the family wonder if the victim's race played a part in the response, Haley says.

"Every local media outlet that I spoke with, that covers the Iberia Parish area, said that they did not even know a child was missing, let alone killed, until the family put them on notice," he says.

"A child was taken from, or last taken from, his parents' home without permission, and they report it to the police, and that's somehow not priority No. 1," says Haley. "That's mind-boggling to me."

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Quawan's family, he says, "felt that they were not getting the support, and they were not being listened to."

A call by PEOPLE to the Baldwin police department was not immediately returned. In a second news release, the sheriff's office said it "continues to investigate the suspicious circumstances" of Quawan's death, adding, "Investigators have interviewed multiple individuals and collected physical evidence which is being processed." But no other details have been released

‘If it was a white kid, they would have looked for him’

A protest took place this week outside of the Iberia Parish courthouse.

KLFY reports that Jamal Taylor, the founder of Stand Black who helped organize the protest, said, "I assure if Jamal Taylor picked up a 15-year-old white child, and she turned up dead, I don’t think I’d even make it to the courthouse."

At the rally, Quawan's aunt Celina Charles said: “Everybody’s life matters, but Quawan’s life was taken away recklessly and it was sad, and we’re going to get justice.”

Haley tells PEOPLE that it wasn't until Nov. 2, three days after the teen went missing, that a third party alerted Quawan's family that he'd left his father's house in the company of his teen friend and the friend's mother, who police have not publicly identified.

Quawan’s father, Kenneth Jacko, said he was joined by parish deputies when he went to the second family's home to ask questions about his son on Nov. 3, the day before Quawan's body was found, reports The Washington Post.

The mother told him that the two boys had wanted to spend time together, but that Quawan had later left alone. After that, "it gets hazy," says Haley. "Why Bobby left, or what time he left [is unclear]. The only thing that was consistent was, she picked him up and brought him back to her place. After that, nothing. And that should draw suspicion in and of itself."

Further complicating matters, he says, is that witnesses saw the mother and her son pack up their belongings this week, and they've not been located since then.

“If it was a white kid, they would have looked for him right then and there,” Tambara Bonnet, a Black woman who lived near that family in the mobile home community they left, told the Post.

In response to reports of Quawan's death, Bonnet's fiance Kevin Archon told the outlet: “If it was a white person — if it was one of their kids — people would have probably been in jail by now."

In alleging a sluggish police response, Haley says: "We know that the most critical moments in any missing persons report, in particular, one involving a child, are those first few seconds, minutes and hours that go by."

"I believe that, if they showed a greater sense of urgency in this, two things could have happened," he says. "One, Bobby could still be here because they could have intervened. Two, if Bobby still wouldn't have been here, those who were responsible for killing him would be arrested. Evidence would be ripe. Folks would not have been able to cover up their tracks. And instead, we're here 13, 14 days later without answers."

"The family's grieving," he says. "They're going to bury their son in a week, and they still know very little."

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