Two-year-old Bounkham “Bou” Phonesavanh has a hole in his chest because of a botched SWAT team operation, and his mother is speaking up about it, saying the nation needs to reconsider how it uses police force.
“After the SWAT team broke down the door, they threw a flash-bang grenade inside,” Alecia Phonesavanh wrote in a piece for Salon.com. “It landed in my son’s crib.”
Off The Grid News readers may remember Bounkham as the boy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. His family was staying in his aunt’s home in Cornelia, Georgia, when members of the local drug task force broke in. The task force was looking for Bounkham’s cousin, Wanis Thometheva, a suspected methamphetamine dealer.
“My husband’s nephew, the one they were looking for, wasn’t there,” Phonesavanh wrote. “He doesn’t even live in that house. After breaking down the door, throwing my husband to the ground, and screaming at my children, the officers – armed with M16s – filed through the house like they were playing war. They searched for drugs and never found any.”
‘I Could See a Singed Crib’
“I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him,” Phonesavanh claims. “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,” she recounted. “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.”
“There’s still a hole in his chest that exposes his ribs,” Phonesavanh wrote of her son’s current condition. “At least that’s what I’ve been told; I’m afraid to look.”
Why Was A Flash Bang Grenade Used?
“Flashbang grenades were created for soldiers to use during battle,” Phonesavanh wrote. “When they explode, the noise is so loud and the flash is so bright that anyone close by is temporarily blinded and deafened. It’s been three weeks since the flashbang exploded next to my sleeping baby, and he’s still covered in burns.”
A flash bang, stun or flash grenade is an explosive device that is designed to stun or blind people by creating a bright flash of light and loud noise when it goes off. Unlike traditional hand grenades, flash bangs are made to incapacitate an enemy without injury.
Flash bang grenades are a military weapon developed in the 1960s for the Special Air Services, or SAS, the British Army’s top commando unit. Even though they are designed to be non-lethal, several deaths have been blamed upon them.
Flash bang grenades can also start fires. In 1980 the Iranian Embassy in London was badly damaged by fires started by flash bang grenades. The grenades were thrown by SAS commandos who were trying to rescue hostages being held in the building by terrorists.
Still in the Hospital
Bou Bou is in Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta, three weeks after the raid that injured him. His parents are now sleeping there. They don’t live in the state; they were visiting from Wisconsin when the raid by the Habersham County Special Response Team occurred. The family was staying with relatives because their own home had burned down.
In other media accounts, Phonesavanh has claimed she and her husband were getting ready to go back home because of Thometheva’s alleged drug use when the raid occurred.
The family is in need of financial support and prayers. Donations can be made at the Justice for Baby Bou Bou website.
The mom wrote:
The only silver lining I can possibly see is that my baby Bou Bou’s story might make us angry enough that we stop accepting brutal SWAT raids as a normal way to fight the “war on drugs.” I know that this has happened to other families, here in Georgia and across the country. I know that SWAT teams are breaking into homes in the middle of the night, more often than not just to serve search warrants in drug cases. I know that too many local cops have stockpiled weapons that were made for soldiers to take to war.
Federal and state authorities are investigating the raid that injured the toddler. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that US Attorney Sally Yates is investigating to see if the Phonesavanh family’s rights were violated in the raid. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is also investigating to see if the response team violated state law by executing a no-knock raid.
The Phonesavanhs have retained an attorney; Mawuli Mel Davis, who could initiate a lawsuit against authorities in Habersham County and the town of Cornelia. Davis has called the officers involved criminally negligent.
“We believe it is criminally negligent that you come into a home with four children and the person you are looking for isn’t even there, and the people who are there aren’t involved with drugs,” Davis told The Journal Constitution. “I don’t know what kind of surveillance they did but that can’t be the standard.”
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