The body of Ja’Quarius Taylor was reportedly discovered tied up and shot in a wooded area near Varnado, Louisiana on January 12.
An attorney for the 17-year-old, who was gay, believes the murder was a hate crime based on race and sexual orientation.
“The family has a legal team to help ensure a full, fair, and just investigation is happening,” the attorney told WWL Eyewitness News. “We hope the FBI will get involved because of the perceived conflicts of interest and family relations the local sheriff may have. We’re looking at this as a hate crime based on the race and sexual orientation of Ja’Quarius Taylor.”
Taylor’s family describes him as a “cool person” and “somebody to joke with.”
On the morning of January 12, his body was found in the woods by a lake not far from his home. Authorities say the teen had been shot in the head.
“We would like for the federal government to come in and take over the investigation because we’re not very comfortable with the local police and the way they’ve done the investigation already,” Pastor Ken Owens said. “We just want justice.”
The local sheriff’s department claims the FBI is involved along with other local and state agencies. They say they’re investigating the death as a homicide, but will treat it as a hate crime if evidence supports that conclusion.
“We are aware of the incident in Washington Parish and are presently assessing the circumstances surrounding this event,” the FBI said in a statement they released Wednesday. “If information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate. The FBI takes seriously all acts or threats of violence and is committed to investigating crimes that are potentially hate-motivated and we continue to work with all our community partners.”
Ja’Quarius, known as “Jay D,” played drums in the Varnado High School band and would have been among the first people in his family to attend college. He was reportedly remembered during the local Martin Luther King Day Parade.