Last month, a family in Georgia had their lives turned upside down by a brutal home invasion.
Imagine this: You’re visiting a relative’s home because your own house was destroyed by a fire. You, your spouse, and your children are peacefully sleeping and you awaken to terrifying chaos: Loud bangs, men shouting, your children screaming…you have no idea what’s going on.
Then you realize that you are the victim of a home invasion – you’re under seige…but the criminals who have burst in unannounced and launched an assault have badges and uniforms so it’s somehow legal…
This is exactly what happened to the Phonesavanh family last month. It gets worse…in order to stun the slumbering family, a member of the SWAT team threw in a flash-bang grenade. It landed in the crib of 19 month old Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh and blasted a hole in his little chest that actually made his rib cage visible to the casual observer.
The baby had a hole in his cheek, a large gaping wound in his chest, lost the use of one of his lungs, and suffered 3rd degree burns all over his small body. He was put in a medically induced coma, has undergone surgery, and doctors have yet to establish whether or not he will suffer permanent brain damage. He will most likely remain scarred for the rest of his life.
What is a flash-bang grenade? (Flash-bang makes it sound almost cartoonish, doesn’t it?)
Upon detonation, it emits an intensely loud “bang” of 170–180 decibels and a blinding flash of more than one million candela within five feet of initiation, sufficient to cause immediate flash blindness,deafness, tinnitus, and inner ear disturbance. Exposed personnel experience disorientation, confusion and loss of coordination and balance. While these effects are all intended to be temporary, there is risk of permanent injury or even death. (source)
Of course, when it lands right on top of you, in your bed, it’s a bit more than “disorienting.” It’s potentially deadly, especially for a baby.
Alecia Phonesavanh, BouBou’s mother, wrote a grim account of the attack – an attack for which no one has been held accountable. Here’s an excerpt – put yourself in this family’s terrifying position:
After our house burned down in Wisconsin a few months ago, my husband and I packed our four young kids and all our belongings into a gold minivan and drove to my sister-in-law’s place, just outside of Atlanta. On the back windshield, we pasted six stick figures: a dad, a mom, three young girls, and one baby boy.
That minivan was sitting in the front driveway of my sister-in-law’s place the night a SWAT team broke in, looking for a small amount of drugs they thought my husband’s nephew had. Some of my kids’ toys were in the front yard, but the officers claimed they had no way of knowing children might be present. Our whole family was sleeping in the same room, one bed for us, one for the girls, and a crib.
After the SWAT team broke down the door, they threw a flashbang grenade inside. It landed in my son’s crib.
Flashbang grenades were created for soldiers to use during battle. 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.
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.
My husband’s nephew, the one they were looking for, wasn’t there. 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 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. (source)
I truly cannot even fathom the desperation those parents must have felt. Clearly the officers blocked Alecia’s view because they were horrified by the injuries they had just caused to the screaming child.
Incidentally, the person the police were looking for was not on the premises and no drugs were found. So this raid accomplished absolutely nothing except for the opportunity for the cops to dress up in their little black SWAT outfits, throw some grenades, and act macho. Well played, officers. You must be so proud of your heroic actions.
Thus far, from what I can find online about the case…no one has been fired. No one has been suspended. No one has been arrested. No one has been charged with a crime. No one has been forced to pay the medical bills for the injuries suffered by the child. No one is footing the bill for the hotel the family must stay in to be near their son.
But wait. There’s more.
Even more repulsive, Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell defended the actions of the SWAT team. Even though he claims they’d been staking out the house for days, they somehow had no idea that 4 children were present. (This is despite the minivan with the stick figures in the windows, the car seats, and the typical kid detritus like shoes and clothes and toys.) The raid was made based on a story by a confidential informant who claims to have bought $50 worth of meth from the nephew of the homeowner.
According to a report on RT, Sheriff Terrell…
…told the AJC the raid was properly executed, but ended in a tragic result. He defended the use of the no-knock warrant and lack of investigative work, saying that it would have risked revealing that the officers were watching the house.
The informant told police there were a couple of men standing “guard” outside the room – a converted garage area – where the Phonesavanhs were living. But the CI was unsure if the men were armed, and told police there were no children or dogs present in the home, CBS46 reported.
Surveillance on the house might have prevented the raid altogether. Thometheva wasn’t in the home when the police raided, and was later arrested along with three other people at a different house on a felony drug charge of distribution of meth, the AJC reported.
The Phonesavanh family is also criticizing the police for the way they used the stun grenade. “I was told they were suppose to roll those things,” Alecia said to the AJC. “If they had rolled it, it would not have landed on my son’s pillow.”
Terrell said the team used the device because the encountered resistance when trying to push the door open. “When they entered the door, they noticed it was a playpen, or like a pack-and-play type device,” he said to WXIA. “There was a young child in the pack-and-play.”
A family member disputes the police’s description, telling WXIA that the crib was seven feet away from the door, not propped against it. (source)
In a rather audacious and desperate game of “Pass the Buck” the Sheriff also commented that the nephew (who was later arrested SOMEWHERE ELSE and charged with possession) could be held accountable for Bou Bou’s injuries. Really? And this man was actually elected?
So these are the questions in my mind:
- What would happen to a thug without a badge if he perpetrated this type of home invasion, resulting in such a traumatic injury to a baby? Considering the fact that you can get life in prison for a little bit of weed, I have to think that the punishment would be severe. So why on earth are the cops exempt from punishment for permanently scarring and nearly killing a toddler?
- Why are these no-knock warrants occurring in situations that are far from life and death matters? It’s understandable if a person’s life is at stake, for example, in a suspected kidnapping. But where on earth was the probable cause to burst into the bedroom of a sleeping family?
- Why isn’t every member of that SWAT team being prosecuted? And what about the judge who signed the warrant? The DA that asked for the warrant? All of them are culpable. Every single person that thought this would be a good idea is guilty of harming a 19 month old baby. I’m sure no one set out to hurt a baby, but the fact remains, they did, and they are guilty of being negligent and careless, at the very least.
- Where the heck is the accountability? They aren’t paying the child’s extensive medical bills, they aren’t paying the hotel bill for the struggling family, and they aren’t taking any responsibility for their actions.
When you are in a situation where you see people doing wrong, you are every bit as guilty if you don’t stop it. Not only is the person who threw that grenade at fault. What about the person who held Alecia Phonesavanh down while her baby was screaming in agony? What about the officers that waited before getting medical treatment for that poor suffering child? What about the people who said they were watching the house but didn’t notice the presence of FOUR CHILDREN? The judge who signed the warrant? The DA who asked for it?
Every person involved is as guilty as the unnamed cop who threw a grenade on top of a sleeping baby.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”
~ Edmund Burke, 1770
It’s easy to say that all cops are not bad. And I’d really like to believe that. I would like to be able to tell my children that there is a group out there putting their lives on the line – a group you can depend on in a crisis situation – that the police are their friends.
But I can’t. Instead I tell them never to talk to police because much of the time, the purpose is to trick you into making yourself look guilty of something. I tell them not to open the door to police if they knock. I tell them that despite the uniform and the cop shows that portray them as heroes, police are generally not to be trusted. (Who can forget the warrantless searches in Boston last year when innocent families were marched out of their own homes at gunpoint?)
I’m sure that my opinion will not be a popular one, and that’s fine with me. I’m sure many people can tell stories about “good cops” that they know or are related to. I’m sure there are a lot of folks that want to believe the cops are there to help us.
The problem is, those who enforce the law should not only be held to the law, they should be held to a higher standard. Instead, it appears that police are held to no standard at all. They are increasingly brutal. They taze people. They beat people. They molest people. They kill the family pet. And they aren’t punished. They aren’t held responsible. What would happen if a thug WITHOUT a badge threw a grenade on top of a baby? Can you imagine the public outcry? That person would be lucky to make it to trial without being lynched. He’d never survive being in prison, because those who hurt children get a different kind of justice when they’re behind bars.
All of that changes when the thug throwing the grenade wears a badge and a uniform. The cops in America are becoming increasingly militarized, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down.
Personally, I can imagine no situation in which I would call 911 for police assistance because there are just too many stories about that going horribly wrong. (HERE, HERE, and HERE, for example) I don’t want them in my home. Their purpose is NOT to serve us and protect us. The people they serve are NOT the people in the community. Their purpose is to generate revenue for their cities or counties. It is to charge people with a crime and gather evidence to imprison them, because prisons are the new slave ships. Work done for pennies in a prison is making big bucks for industry, so this whole war on drugs baloney is really just a way to legally take people and enslave them, forcing them to perform labor for which other people realize profit. (Learn more HERE)
Inquiries to discover whether the child’s very extensive medical bills are being paid by the county have not been answered at this time.
A press release issued by the Phonesavanh family’s attorney updates us on Bou Bou’s condition:
June 24, 2014 Atlanta, GA –Bounkham “Baby Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, the baby severely injured by a flash bang grenade thrown in his play pen by the Habersham Sheriff’s Department and City of Cornelia police raid, has been transferred to Children’s Scottish Rite Hospital to begin rehabilitation. The family, who was set to move back home to Wisconsin the day after the raid, continues to need financial support as they have been living in a hotel to remain closer to their son.
“I was able to hold my son and hear his voice for the first time since the grenade exploded. After all that has happened to him, I am amazed at his strength. He has a long way to go but our prayers are being answered. We feel like it’s a miracle.” Bounkham Phonesavanh, Father of Baby Bou Bou
All donations to the family can be made to a Wells Fargo Bank Trust account in the name of Bounkham Phonesavanh. Online donations be made at www.justiceandprayersforboubou.org
“ While this family is focused on the rehabilitation of their 19month old baby, the ACLU has lent their support releasing a report on S.W.A.T. teams and the militarization of police which includes Baby Bou Bou’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh’s chilling story about what happen the day the grenade blew a hole in their son’s face and chest. This family could be any of us.” Attorney Mawuli Mel Davis, Davis Bozeman Law Firm
The ACLU report can be found on www.aclu.org/militarization. The family has set up a Facebook page to keep well-wishers apprised of the child’s condition can be found HERE. ”Like” the page to show your support to this little guy, the helpless victim of epidemic police brutality and carelessness.