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Acadiana activist group creates recall petitions for elected officials

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Posted at 8:39 AM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 09:39:51-05

On Tuesday, a local activist group announced the creation of a recall petition for several elected officials in Acadiana.

The petition calls for the removal of Baldwin Chief of Police Harry Smith and 16th Judicial District Attorney Bo Duhé.

The Village 337 says that the effort to recall is due to instances of incompetence, brutality, corruption and retaliation within local city governments. They also cite the failures to thoroughly investigate the death of 15-year-old Quawan "Bobby" Charles by Baldwin Police and the DA's office.

Charles was reported missing to the Baldwin Police Department by his family on October 30. He body was later found in a Loreauville field on November 3. Two preliminary autopsies suggest that Charles had drowned. Read more on the coronor's report and the family's independent autopsy.

An official cause of death has not yet been determined.

Funeral arrangements for Charles have been set for Saturday, November 21. The public is invited to attend.

According to The Advocate, family attorneys and supporters say that law enforcement agencies have not treated the Charles family with empathy and were not committed to investigating the case. They also say officials have not been forthcoming with information for the family.

The recall petition for Chief Smith, according to the group, focuses on his lack of leadership in the investigation. They cite the Baldwin Mayor's recent comments that he hadn't seen the chief for at least nine months.

Smith tells KATC that he has been working more night shifts since the a 2018 fire at the police station.

"I've been around just not going during the day," said Smith. "I've been riding around during the night. Ever since the fire, I've just trying to get myself together."

On November 17, Baldwin Police released video that shows Quawan Charles leaving his dad's home and climbing into a car. The vehicle, his family said, was driven by a friend's mother. That friend, also a teen, was also in the vehicle.

Police say the video shows that Quawan wasn't abducted, but family attorneys still question whether police have done enough.

Devon Norman, president of The Village 337, says that Charles, as a minor, was unable to give consent when leaving his father's home, so the situation should be treated as an abduction.

The recall petition for District Attorney Duhé, is for his failure to intervene and pursue a case against the mother and teen who picked up Charles from his father's house without permission, they say.

Duhé serves Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes and was reelected to a second term Nov. 3.

The Village says that they will begin canvassing to spread word about the petitions.

Recall petitions have also been created for Acadia Parish Sheriff K.P. Gibson and Crowley City Councilman Lyle Fogleman.

The groups say that petition against Gibson deals with his handling of the investigation into the arrest of TJ Yokum.

Yokum was arrested after deputies pulled over a vehicle that was in violation of a Hurricane Delta curfew on October 12. During that arrest a taser was used on Yokum who fell onto the pavement and was injured. He was taken to a hospital for treatment before booking.

Gibson said that the incident was reviewed because any time force is used by his deputies that results in an injury that sends someone to the hospital, that incident is fully reviewed.

The review, he said, found that deputies followed policy and handled themselves properly. Read more, here.

The Village says that the sheriff's office did not contact Yokum's mother and that she was ignored.

The recall petition for Fogelman, according to The Village, is for his use of a throat slicing gesture towards protesters at a council meeting on October 20.

The group says Fogleman's action was a threat, but the councilman says that the gesture was an act of frustration and a call for the group to stop protesting and go home, The Advocate reports.

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