Authorities “follow every lead” in death of black teenager

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NEW IBERIA, LA. – A Louisiana sheriff said on Saturday his office “was working hard to make sure no stone was left behind” to determine what led to the death of a 15-year-old black boy whose disappearance had sparked speculation about racial crimes. “I want to assure the public that my team and I are doing all we can and are following all leads, to gather evidence of what happened during the untimely death of Quawan” Bobby “Charles”, Iberia Parish Sheriff Tommy Romero said in a press release.

“Any loss of life is a tragedy and this is especially true when it comes to a young person. While we believe it is important not to compromise any part of our investigation, we are prepared to disclose certain details so that the public can be assured that we are not resting in our efforts to find the truth, ”he said. -he declares.

The Iberia Parish Coroner’s Office announced on Friday that drowning appears to be the most likely cause of Charles’s death.

“At this time, there is no evidence of ante-mortem trauma” – pre-death injury – of Charles, according to the preliminary autopsy report. Any cut to her face was made as part of the autopsy and further damage was likely from aquatic animals as her body was found in the water, according to the report.

Evidence of drowning included muddy water in his airways, “hyper swollen lungs” and water in his sinuses, according to the report signed by coroner Dr. Carl Ditch.

The final report is awaiting the final results of the autopsy, toxicology and a police investigation, he said.

The sheriff’s office is investigating the death as a possible homicide. No arrests were made.

“We want to remind the public that this is an active and ongoing investigation into the homicide. We urge anyone with additional information that might assist our investigation to come forward and contact the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office at 337-369-3711, ”Romero said.

The teenager’s family filed a missing person report on October 30 in the St. Mary’s parish town of Baldwin. His body was found on the evening of November 3 about 20 miles away in a woodland near the Iberia parish town of Loreauville.

Romero said investigators spoke to at least one witness who allegedly saw Charles before his death in the area where he was later found.

“We have obtained and reviewed video evidence showing Quawan` Bobby ‘Charles near this area,” he said. “Video evidence indicates that no other person is present with Quawan ‘Bobby’ Charles or anyone else present for some time before or after he is seen on the recording. ”

Protesters and the state president NAACP called for “Justice for Quawan Charles”. A fundraising page set up to raise $ 15,000 for an independent autopsy and other expenses shows a photo of his face next to one of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was lynched in 1955. He had reported over $ 244,000 from 12,800 donors as of Saturday.

Ron Haley, one of three civil rights attorneys representing Charles’ family, said they were awaiting the results of an independent autopsy.

“We certainly hope that the sheriff’s office and all local agencies put more energy into solving the mystery of Quawan’s death than they did in trying to locate him when he was reported missing,” Haley said via email in response to Romero’s statement. “While it may appear that the relationship between the Charles family and the local agencies has been contradictory, at the end of the day the family just wants truthful answers so as to know how and why Quawan died, no matter who provides them with those answers. . “

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