Home U.S Quawan Charles death: Race 'not a factor in police search efforts'

Quawan Charles death: Race 'not a factor in police search efforts'


An official with the rural Louisiana police department that originally handled the disappearance of Quawan Charles, the black teenager found dead in cane fields, defended his tiny agency’s investigation, saying his men’s work was professional and appropriate despite a lack of resources.

And the 15-year-old’s race, said Assistant Chief Sam Wise in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, played no role in the effort that police in rural Baldwin put into trying to find Quawan, contrary to claim by the Charles family.

‘We’re all black in the department except for two of my part-time officers,’ said Wise. ‘We did the best we could. I’m black. The chief’s black. We’re almost all black here.

‘I feel for the family. But I’m not sure we could’ve done more. We did everything by the book.’

The Baldwin Police Department is a vanishing breed in this country, where small towns increasingly tend to farm out policing to better-funded, better equipped sheriffs or state police.

With a population of 3,000 in a jurisdiction of about two square miles two hours northwest of New Orleans, Baldwin is a place struggling with poverty and the lack of opportunities. 

Quawan Charles, 15, was found dead in a sugar cane field on November 3. The 15-year-old's race, said Assistant Chief Sam Wise in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, played no role in the effort – or lack thereof, according to the Charles family – that police in rural Baldwin put into trying to find Quawan

Quawan Charles, 15, was found dead in a sugar cane field on November 3

Quawan Charles, 15, was found dead in a sugar cane field on November 3. The 15-year-old’s race, said Assistant Chief Sam Wise (left )in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, played no role in the effort – or lack thereof, according to the Charles family – that police in rural Baldwin put into trying to find Quawan

Wise's remarks comes as police released surveillance footage of Charles leaving his home for the last time on October 30 with Janet Irvin and her son Gavin

Wise’s remarks comes as police released surveillance footage of Charles leaving his home for the last time on October 30 with Janet Irvin and her son Gavin

Baldwin PD says the chief received the surveillance video on November 11, because it was unclear whether Charles was considered a runaway

Baldwin PD says the chief received the surveillance video on November 11, because it was unclear whether Charles was considered a runaway

Watching the video on his computer, Wise described how a car can be seen driving past Quawan. He then stands up and runs toward the car

Watching the video on his computer, Wise described how a car can be seen driving past Quawan. He then stands up and runs toward the car

And its public services reflect the taxpayers’ own private battles.

A sign on the door of city hall Tuesday read: ‘The town will accept donated tools of any kinds!’

The police department, Wise said, employs five law enforcement officers and one civilian. 

The cops had had their own headquarters at one point. But the building burned down two years ago and has yet to be rebuilt.

So, city hall was divided up to accommodate police and the suspects who were arrested.

A man arrested for pulling a knife on his own brother Tuesday patiently sat in the chief’s office, apparently unrestrained, a few feet away from the rest of the city’s employees.

In the police’s cramped office space, someone set up three glue traps. 

‘Rodents and lizards, I hate them,’ the employee said.

Wise’s police car, a Crown Victoria that had seen better days, has been on the road for 15 years and racked up 150,000 miles.

Most officers, said Wise, are part-timers.

‘One of my guys is the local ADT (home security) tech by day,’ Wise said. ‘Another one works for a lawyer and comes over when we call him.’

The night shift is covered by one officer, with two deputies from the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office on standby in case something big happens.

Part of the problem his department encountered when Quawan vanished, Wise said, may have been the fact he was on vacation when the call reporting the disappearance came in.

Wise, it so happens, is the town’s only investigator.

Quawan's family say that he is the victim of a hate crime that police are refusing to investigate

Quawan's family say that he is the victim of a hate crime that police are refusing to investigate

Quawan’s family say that he is the victim of a hate crime that police are refusing to investigate

Police now say the car was driven by Janet Irvin, 37. She was accompanied by her son, Gavin Irvin, 17, a friend of Quawan's from a school they both attended months earlier

Police now say the car was driven by Janet Irvin, 37. She was accompanied by her son, Gavin Irvin, 17, a friend of Quawan’s from a school they both attended months earlier

Pictured: House where Quawan Charles live with his father in Baldwin, Louisiana

Pictured: House where Quawan Charles live with his father in Baldwin, Louisiana

With Quawan in the back seat, the car immediately turns around and parks in the boy's driveway. 'Then you can see everybody in the car, the white lady and her son, get out and go in the backyard. That's where they were keeping a dog that the victim's mom had bought him a few days earlier'

With Quawan in the back seat, the car immediately turns around and parks in the boy’s driveway. ‘Then you can see everybody in the car, the white lady and her son, get out and go in the backyard. That’s where they were keeping a dog that the victim’s mom had bought him a few days earlier’

‘I’m the only detective we’ve got,’ said Wise, who happens to be a preacher at two area churches. ‘I handle robberies, burglaries, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings and murders.’

He described how his arrest of a man riding his bike in his underwear past Baldwin’s only traffic light last month solved a murder.

‘I knew his wife had been shot dead, so I got him to fess up,’ Wise said. ‘We know everybody in town.

Wise returned from vacation two days early on November 2 because he knew the investigation into Quawan’s disappearance wasn’t going well.

‘I started working on it on Monday, and the following day, we heard he was dead,’ Wise said

That day, Wise said, he found a cement business across the street from the house where Quawan was living with his dad, Ken Jacko, 63, that had security cameras.

And he was able to find grainy footage of Quawan sitting on the curb about 1:30 p.m. Oct. 30.

Watching the video on his computer, Wise described how a car can be seen driving past Quawan. He then stands up and runs toward the car.

With Quawan in the back seat, the car immediately turns around and parks in the boy’s driveway.

‘Then you can see everybody in the car, the white lady and her son, get out and go in the backyard. That’s where they were keeping a dog that the victim’s mom had bought him a few days earlier.’ 

Janet Irvin, 37, (pictured) temporarily lost the custody of two of her three children a decade ago after she was accused of domestic violence and neglect by her children's father, according to court records in Lafayette, Lousianna

Janet Irvin, 37, (pictured) temporarily lost the custody of two of her three children a decade ago after she was accused of domestic violence and neglect by her children’s father, according to court records in Lafayette, Lousianna

According to family spokeswoman Charles, the teenage boy was picked up by Irvin and her 17-year-old son Gavin (pictured) at home in the nearby town of Baldwin on the afternoon of October 30

According to family spokeswoman Charles, the teenage boy was picked up by Irvin and her 17-year-old son Gavin (pictured) at home in the nearby town of Baldwin on the afternoon of October 30

DailyMail.com visited the Chastant Trailer Park where Quawan was last seen alive and witnessed the crushing poverty of Louisiana's agricultural countryside, with many of the trailers damaged, unstable, un-maintained or just too old to be comfortable

DailyMail.com visited the Chastant Trailer Park where Quawan was last seen alive and witnessed the crushing poverty of Louisiana’s agricultural countryside, with many of the trailers damaged, unstable, un-maintained or just too old to be comfortable

Last week, Irvin was evicted from the trailer by her landlord because other residents complained of drug use on the property. A young man carries a chair into a U-Haul truck from the Irvin home. They say Quawan left their home on October 30 without saying where he was going

Last week, Irvin was evicted from the trailer by her landlord because other residents complained of drug use on the property. A young man carries a chair into a U-Haul truck from the Irvin home. They say Quawan left their home on October 30 without saying where he was going 

Then, by 1:45 p.m., the trio can be seen getting back into her car and driving away.

Police now say the car was driven by Janet Irvin, 37. She was accompanied by her son, Gavin Irvin, 17, a friend of Quawan’s from a school they both attended months earlier.

In an exclusive story earlier this week, DailyMail.com reported Janet Irvin was arrested last year and charged with felony possession of hydrocodone.

The case was dismissed because of police misconduct but another drug case involving Irvin is pending. She was also stripped of the custody of her two younger children a decade ago when her boyfriend complained she dropped their two-year-old on the floor and allowed him to drink beer.

After the discovery of Quawan’s body, authorities discovered Irvin drove the boys to her trailer in Loreauville, about 20 miles north of Baldwin.

At one point, Quawan left the trailer and wandered into the adjacent plantation where the sugar canes are now reaching maturity and at least 10 feet tall. An autopsy determined he drowned as muddy water was extracted from his lungs.

Last week, Irvin was evicted from the trailer by her landlord because other residents complained of drug use on the property.

The immediate aftermath of the disappearance, meanwhile, was confusing to Baldwin Police.

Wise said his men were getting conflicting information from the child’s parents. 

After the discovery of Quawan's body, authorities discovered Irvin drove the boys to her trailer in Loreauville, about 20 miles north of Baldwin

After the discovery of Quawan’s body, authorities discovered Irvin drove the boys to her trailer in Loreauville, about 20 miles north of Baldwin

A few hours later, according to the autopsy, Quawan was dead in the drainage ditch which, at the time, had ankle-deep water (pictured), according to locals

A few hours later, according to the autopsy, Quawan was dead in the drainage ditch which, at the time, had ankle-deep water (pictured), according to locals

The revelations come as the family of 15-year-old Quawan Charles has been unable to talk to Irvin about what could have happened on October 30, when he walked away from Irvin's trailer in the tiny town of Loreauville and into sugar fields

The revelations come as the family of 15-year-old Quawan Charles has been unable to talk to Irvin about what could have happened on October 30, when he walked away from Irvin’s trailer in the tiny town of Loreauville and into sugar fields

Quawan was last seen at his father's home in Baldwin on October 30. His body was found 25 miles north three days later

Quawan was last seen at his father’s home in Baldwin on October 30. His body was found 25 miles north three days later

‘One parent, the mother, was saying he’d never come home from school,’ said Wise. ‘The other, the father, said he had no friends and no place to go.

‘The father called us at 8 p.m. that night to report the boy missing. That’s seven hours after he was gone.

‘We searched the entire town for hours. We called his cell phone over and over again with his dad next to us. It was powered down.’

In time, according to published reports, St Mary Parish Sheriff’s deputies pinged the phone Nov.2, something that led to the grim discovery.

Through spokespeople and protests, Quawan’s family has criticized Baldwin Police for a lackluster response and hinted that more resources would’ve been used to find a missing white child.

‘If Chief Wise’s department was not intuitive enough to know it didn’t have the functional ability to find the young man, it should have turned the investigation over to other agencies,’ said Jamal Taylor, a family spokesman. ‘I’m deeply disturbed by anyone who blames the lack of resources as a tool to describe why a child ended up dying.’

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