New video connected to the homicide investigation of 15-year-old Quawan "Bobby" Charles has been released by police showing him leaving his father's Louisiana home days before his body was found facedown in a marshy sugar cane field.
The boy's family reported him missing on Oct. 30, the day the video appears to show him getting into a car driven by a friend's mother. The friend, also a teen, was in the vehicle, authorities said.
Charles left his dad's home without permission, and his parents did not know the woman and her son, the family said.
"The family's not questioning the veracity of the video," Chase Trichell, a lawyer for the family, told CBS News Tuesday. "However, our interest is now solely focused on what occurs as soon as that video stops."
The Charles family continues to question why an Amber Alert was not issued for their son, and claims law enforcement did not take his disappearance seriously. His body was found Nov. 3, more than 20 miles away in Iberia Parish.
Charles' father lives in the small rural town of Baldwin. Assistant police chief Sam Wise said Tuesday that the teen's disappearance did not meet the requirements for issuing an Amber Alert.
"We didn't see where it felt that it met that criteria of an abduction or kidnapping because there was no eyewitnesses or no one to say that ... someone kidnapped him or beat him and took him into that vehicle," Wise told local station KATC-TV.
"So no, it didn't meet the criteria to get in touch with state police you know, face to face or any other way so we sent this out through a computer database," Wise said. The Louisiana State Police are responsible for issuing statewide Amber Alerts.
Charles family lawyers Ronald Haley and Chase Trichell on Monday criticized state police for not issuing an Amber Alert after Charles vanished, and also claimed the agency failed to activate department protocol that would have notified local media outlets that a search was on.
“Had this been done, perhaps Quawan would still be alive today," the attorneys said in a statement.
The Louisiana State Police, in an email sent Tuesday to Inside Edition Digital, said they were not contacted about Charles' disappearance.
"Louisiana State Police was not contacted in reference to the missing child and LSP was not part of the initial investigation," wrote Lt. Nick Manale. "As of Friday, November 13th, 2020, LSP investigators began assisting the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office with the forensic analysis of the cell phone discovered with the remains of Quawan Charles."
To date, a GoFundMe account established for the family has raised more than $280,000.
His family has compared Quawan's death to the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, posting a graphic photo of Quawan's disfigured body alongside the funeral photo of the 14-year-old Chicago boy murdered in the Deep South for allegedly whistling at a white woman.
A private autopsy commissioned by the family preliminarily found the teen likely drowned, in keeping with initial findings from the local coroner's office.
The Iberia Parish Coroner's Office last week released initial autopsy results, saying the cause of death was likely drowning, citing fluid found in the boy's lungs. Damage to Charles' face, which appeared to be partially eaten away, did not occur before his death and was probably caused by "aquatic animal activity” in the marshy sugar cane field where his body was found, the autopsy found.
The Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department, which is investigating the boy's death, has said it has been classified as a homicide. Final autopsy results, including toxicology testing, will not be available for weeks, the department said.
"Our office in Iberia Parish was not notified of the potential that we had a missing person in our area until Nov. 3 when we were contacted by a parent of Quawan “Bobby” Charles," the department said Saturday on its Facebook page.
“We want to remind the public that this is an active, ongoing homicide investigation. We urge anyone who has any additional information which might aid our investigation to come forward and contact the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office at 337-369-3711," the Facebook post said.
The death "looks like a hate crime," said NAACP Louisiana Conference President Michael McClanahan in a livestreamed interview for his weekly radio show Sunday on WTQT-FM in Baton Rouge.
"This is an ongoing investigation and there's little information we can give out to the public," Iberia Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Katherine Breaux told The Associated Press. "One thing we want the public to know and understand is that our investigators deal with facts, rather than rumors and social media speculations," she said.
The department also said video evidence obtained by investigators showed the teen walking alone in the area where his body was found. Relatives said the friend and his mother who picked up Quawan took him to their home in Iberia Parish on the day he went missing. The woman and her son said Quawan had walked off later that day, the relatives said.
Officers have questioned the two, and no arrests have been made, authorities said.
Quawan's cousin, Celina Charles, told Inside Edition Digital last week the family believes investigators did not take his disappearance seriously because he was Black. "That's the way it is down there. If he would have been white ... there would have been an Amber Alert issued," she said.
Authorities said they followed departmental protocols in Quawan's case, and were investigating all available leads.