The family of the toddler severely burned by a SWAT team’s flash-bang grenade has had another trauma inflicted upon them by local authorities: Habersham County, Georgia, officials are refusing to pay the child’s medical bills.
Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh had a hole burned in his chest when a flash-bang grenade landed in his crib on May 28, 2014. The grenade was thrown by members of the Habersham County Special Response Team who were searching for Bou Bou’s cousin, Wanis Thometheva, a suspected methamphetamine dealer. Bou Bou and his family were visiting from Wisconsin, and he was sleeping in a crib near the door at the time of the no-knock raid. No drugs were found.
“The family reaction is utter disappointment and shock because they were led to believe that they would accept financial responsibility for over $500,000 in medical bills” Muwali Davis, the Phonesavanh family attorney, told Channel 2 in Atlanta.
The decision was made by the Habersham County Board of Commissioners.
“The question before the board was whether it is legally permitted to pay these expenses,” a statement from Habersham County Attorney Donnie Hunt read.
“After consideration of this question following advice of counsel, the board of commissioners has concluded that it would be in violation of the law for it to do so.”
Toddler Is Home
There is some good news for the Phonesavanh family, though: Bou is out of the hospital and back home in Wisconsin. His family was visiting his aunt at the time of the drug raid that injured him. He was able to walk out of the hospital and go home in July, Channel 2 reported.
The family is still trying to find the money to pay for more than half a million dollars in hospital bills accrued during stays at two different Atlanta-area hospitals. Persons who want to help the family can visit the Justice and Prayers for Bou Bou website.
“We have to move forward with the lawsuit at this point,” Davis said. “It’s just unfortunate that you would think that after an innocent child is injured through no fault of his own they would step up and do the right thing.”
Raid Based on Faulty Information?
The decision to raid the home was based on faulty information, Davis said. Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell told Channel 2 that a confidential informant had purchased drugs at the home.
The mother said the raid never should have happened.
“My husband’s nephew, the one they were looking for, wasn’t there,” the boy’s mother wrote in a piece for Salon.com. “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.”
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