Police in Georgia are under fire after a drug raid gone wrong left a baby in a coma when a stun grenade landed in his crib.
Alexia Phonesavanh, her husband, and their four children were visiting her sister-in-law’s home in Cornelia, Georgia, when, just before 3 a.m. Wednesday, May 28, a SWAT team raided the home. Cops tossed a so-called flash-bang grenade, which landed in the crib of 19-month-old Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh. The family was visiting from Wisconsin after fire had damaged their home.
Above you can hear the boy’s mother recount what happened.
Here is what you need to know:
1. A Stun Grenade Exploded in the Baby’s Face
Stun grenades are designed to create a bright light and loud bang to momentarily incapacitate everyone around it. Boukham’s family, who were all staying in the garage that had been transformed into a bedroom, say they saw the grenade explode right into the toddler’s face.
Below you can watch a demonstration of a stun grenade in action:
The only person injured in the explosion and raid was the small child.
Alecia Phonesavanh wrote in an Op-ed published on Salon:
It’s been three weeks since the flashbang exploded next to my sleeping baby, and he’s still covered in burns….There’s still a hole in his chest that exposes his ribs. At least that’s what I’ve been told; I’m afraid to look.
I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him. He screamed at me to sit down and shut up and blocked my view, so I couldn’t see my son. I could see a singed crib. And I could see a pool of blood. The officers yelled at me to calm down and told me my son was fine, that he’d just lost a tooth. It was only hours later when they finally let us drive to the hospital that we found out Bou Bou was in the intensive burn unit and that he’d been placed into a medically induced coma.
2. ‘Baby Bou’ Has a 50 Percent Chance of Survival
“Bou Bou,” as he is affectionately known by his family, is in a medically induced coma at Grady Memorial Hospital in Georgia. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, doctors believe he has a 50 percent chance of surviving, and it could be weeks before doctors will know how to treat him.
Starting on May 28, a woman who identifies herself as a friend of the family created a Go Fund Me fundraiser to subsidize Bou Bou’s medical expenses. She writes:
Hi im trying to raise money for my friends Bou and Alecia for their baby who is in intensive care in Alanta.
He needs lots of surgeries and I wanna help raise money to help with bills and food and other things they may need..They are in Alanta hospital now but are from Wisconsin..
The website has already raised more than $7,000 of the requested $20,000.
3. Police Say There Was ‘Nothing to Indicate’ There Were Children Inside
Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell told the media that the wounding of the child was “a terrible accident that was never supposed to happen.”
Cornelia Police Chief Rick Darby justified the cops’ tactics by saying, “There was no clothes, no toys, nothing to indicate that there was children present in the home. If there had been then we’d have done something different.”
Since the release of that statement, the boy’s mother Alecia has lashed out at the police saying, “They say there were no toys. There is plenty of stuff. Their shoes were lying all over.”
4. Stun Grenades Have Been Known to Kill, and Militarized Police Raids Are on the Rise
Kade Crockford of the ACLU writes on PrivacySOS that para-military police raids like this one are estimated to occur between 70,000 and 80,000 times a year in the United States. Stun grenades have become a favorite tool of these raid teams and have been the cause of a number of deaths over the past 30 years.
In 2003, the media and public were forced to debate the viability of stun grenades after the NYPD scared a 57-year-old Harlem woman to death when they rolled one into her apartment during a “mistaken raid.” After the incident, the NYPD suspended their use.
5. The Suspect Wasn’t Even Home During the Police Raid
The police were looking for 30-year-old Wanis Thometheva, who police say had sold methamphetamine to a confidential informant earlier that evening at the same home. Thometheva had been arrested on drug charges before, one time resulting in the police recovering an AK-47. Bou’s parents say they had no knowledge of this.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Thometheva was not at home at the time of the raid but was later apprehended at another location.