An Arkansas family is demanding answers and accountability after an 8-year-old boy was severely burned.
Jayceon Charles was at a friend’s house in Warren, Arkansas, in August, preparing to go to Magic Springs the next day. However, he left the home with 80 percent of his body burned, according to his family. Jayceon and his friend were roasting hot dogs when the fire erupted. No one at the friend’s home called or reported the incident. His family believes Jayceon’s race played a role in the lack of urgency in his treatment and attention to his case.
Jayceon’s mother, Lakiesha Belin said her son called and hung up. His father called back, and he was screaming. His parents rushed to the friend’s home to find Jayceon covered in Vaseline and plastic wrap. The third grader is now in the Arkansas Children’s Hospital intensive care unit recovering from burns across the back of his body.
The boy had to be resuscitated twice, his family said. He is breathing through a tube connected to a ventilator. Jayceon has suffered brain damage and kidney failure and has undergone several surgeries. Doctors have had to remove 5 inches of his small intestine, and he’s had a life-threatening infection called sepsis.
Earl Charles said none of the explanations he has gotten for what happened to his grandson make sense.
“The stories that’s been told never sat right with me from the beginning,” Charles said in a Facebook video. “I never understood why so many people dropped the ball and just didn’t show any concern.”
Jayceon’s family immediately contacted the police. The Arkansas State Police told KARK.com that it was taking over the investigation on Oct. 6 and will send findings to local prosecutors. However, Charles fears that “important evidence” may have been lost two months after the fiery incident.
Belin said Jayceon’s friend’s parents told her, “something in the fire exploded.” The other family had two fires going, she said. Belin said the adults in the home did not call her and Jayceon’s father, 911, fire rescue, or make arrangements to take him to the hospital. Instead, he was transported to the hospital after his parents arrived.
Belin said she doesn’t understand if “they had enough time” to slather Jayceon in Vaseline and cover him in plastic wrap, why didn’t they call for help or contact his family.
The boy’s father Justin Charles said they do not believe Jayceon’s injuries resulted from an accident. He wants his son to make a full recovery, but he also wants justice for Jayceon.
Charles also believes that local authorities did not prioritize an investigation into the incident because Jayceon is Black and the other family is white.
“I really feel like it should’ve been investigated from day one when we came in the hospital,” he said. “They didn’t even call the police at the hospital.”
Charles said they were never questioned by police, and they had to contact authorities themselves to push the case forward.
“It has been a rough situation for all of us,” he said.
Community activist Mark Cannon said the authorities and the hospital “failed” Jayceon and his family.
“Is it because they’re Black? Is it because Jayceon is Black?” Cannon asked. “What if his name was Billy or Chuck or Blair? Would things have been different?”
Two months, several surgeries and two close calls later, Jayceon’s family said they are grateful that he is making progress. Belin is concerned about how her only child’s recovery process will be and how life could look for the active 8-year-old after the tragedy.
“It’s hard because I don’t know if my baby is going to be the same anymore,” she said, breaking down in tears.
Before the fire, Jayceon enjoyed playing outdoors. His favorite sport was basketball, and he loved video games, his mother said.
“I don’t know if he’ll ever able to do that again,” Belin added.