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Coroner: Black teen likely drowned; damage from animals

November 13, 2020 GMT
This undated photo provided by the family through the NAACP shows Quawan Charles. Activists and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana are calling for an independent investigation into the death of Charles, a Black 15-year-old whose body was found Nov. 3, 2020, days after he was reported missing. (Family Photo/Courtesy of NAACP via AP)
This undated photo provided by the family through the NAACP shows Quawan Charles. Activists and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana are calling for an independent investigation into the death of Charles, a Black 15-year-old whose body was found Nov. 3, 2020, days after he was reported missing. (Family Photo/Courtesy of NAACP via AP)
This undated photo provided by the family through the NAACP shows Quawan Charles. Activists and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana are calling for an independent investigation into the death of Charles, a Black 15-year-old whose body was found Nov. 3, 2020, days after he was reported missing. (Family Photo/Courtesy of NAACP via AP)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana coroner says drowning appears to be the most likely cause of death of a Black 15-year-old whose disappearance and death sparked speculation about racial crime.

“At this time there is no evidence of ante mortem trauma” — pre-death injury — to Quawan “Bobby” Charles, said the preliminary report, which the Iberia Parish Coroner’s Office made public Friday.

Any cuts on his face were made as part of the autopsy and other damage was probably caused by aquatic animals, since his body was found in water, the report said. Evidence of drowning included muddy water in his airways, “hyper inflated lungs” and water in his sinuses, according to the report signed by the coroner, Dr. Carl Ditch.

The final report is pending final autopsy results, toxicology and a police investigation, it said.

The teen’s family filed a missing persons report Oct. 30 in the St. Mary Parish town of Baldwin. His body was found the evening of Nov. 3 about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away in woods near the Iberia Parish town of Loreauville.

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Demonstrators and the state NAACP president have 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. It had brought in more than $216,000 from 11,400 donors as of Friday.

“We are still awaiting the results of the independent autopsy we commissioned,” Ron Haley, one of three civil rights attorneys representing the family, said in an email Friday.

The Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death as a possible homicide because of “suspicious circumstances,” spokeswoman Katherine Breaux said Thursday. No arrests have been made.

The report includes GPS coordinates of the spot where Charles’ body was found. The precise location is something the family has been asking for, activist André Arceneaux of Youngsville, said earlier this week. Arceneaux was called in by the family and created the GoFundMe page.

The family also wants to know why Baldwin police did not call for a statewide Amber Alert even though Nelson alleged that Charles might have been abducted, Haley has said.

Louisiana State Police, who issue such alerts, were not asked to do so and are not part of the investigation into Charles’ death, Lt. Nick Manale, a state police spokesman, said in an email Thursday.