The death of a Black teenager in Louisiana has prompted questions and sparked protests as the incident has been compared to the murder of Emmett Till. Quawan “Bobby” Charles was a 15-year-old whose body was found on November 3, the Washington Post reported Thursday; his family doubts the official explanation behind his death (drowning) because of the horrible disfigurement to his face seen in a photograph they’ve published online.
“His face says different,” cousin Celina Charles told the Post.
At issue is not just what happened to Bobby, but how local police and sheriffs handled the case.
In a statement published November 9 by Haley and Associates, which is representing Bobby’s family, the attorneys offered the family’s account of what happened in the child’s final days. The firm wrote that, on October 30, he was taken without his parents’ permission by a mother and her teenage son. Bobby’s mother, Roxane Nelson, spent hours attempting to reach her son before the firm wrote that she contacted local law enforcement, who told her her son was probably at a football game, according to the statement. They say no Amber Alert was ever issued.
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Bobby’s father, Kenneth Jacko, told the Washington Post they didn’t know the white mother and son who took Bobby on Friday.
“I want the lady who came to get my son without my permission, his dad’s permission, to be held accountable,” Nelson said during a vigil last week, the Post reported. “She took them to her house. He was alive and well when he was here, and now he is dead.” According to the Post, Jacko spoke to the family, and the son told him that Bobby left their house alone after the two boys spent time together.
The Post was unable to reach the family in question, learning that they had recently been evicted from a trailer park where they lived. But they did speak with a Black resident of the park who said she would be unsurprised if a Black child’s death didn’t receive a thorough investigation, telling the Post, “If it was a white kid, they would have looked for him right then and there.” Another Black resident told the Post he doubted the explanation that Bobby drowned in the ankle-high water of the sugar cane field, where his body was found.
The family began their own investigation, their law firm’s November 9 statement said, and eventually, Bobby’s body was found thanks to a tip from a friend.
“They still have not shown us where Quawan was or what creek he was found at. We can’t even go and put up a cross where he was found at. They’re being very discreet,” Celina told local ABC affiliate WBRZ 2.
“Due to the lack of transparency, collective indifference, and moral failing 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 November 9 statement read. “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.”
Bobby’s family has used social and news media to publicize photos that show the graphic nature of his injuries. According to what the family told the Post, the images and their publicity were directly inspired the way Emmett Till’s mother demanded an open casket for her son to demonstrate the brutality he had faced, helping to spark the Black civil rights and liberation movements of the 1960s.