CORNELIA, GA — A SWAT team crashed through a family’s door in the middle of the night and threw a concussion grenade into a baby’s playpen during a horribly botched drug raid. A 19-month-old baby was horribly disfigured and is now struggling to survive after it exploded in his face.
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Alecia Phonesavanh and her family were staying at a friend’s house after their home had been lost in a fire. The makeshift living arrangements left their 19-month-old baby boy sleeping in a playpen in a shared room. Things were going OK until the local government decided to send paramilitary home invaders to unleash indiscriminate violence upon the home and anyone inside.
The raid took place just before 3:00 a.m. on May 28th. Without warning, members of the Habersham County Special Response Team burst into the home.
“Everyone’s sleeping. There’s a loud bang and a bright light,” said the baby’s mother to WSBTV. “The cops threw that grenade in the door without looking first and it landed right in the playpen and exploded on his pillow right in his face.”
The sleeping baby received the blast of to concussion grenade directly in the chest and face. He received serious, disfiguring burns and is now in a coma. The blast scorched a 2-foot hole in the playpen.
“He’s in the burn unit. We go up to see him and his whole face is ripped open. He has a big cut on his chest,” Phonesavanh said to WSBTV. “He’s only 19 months old. He didn’t do anything.”
OPERATING AS TRAINED
The armed berserkers were raiding the home on a suspicion that someone inside had used substances without government permission. To make sure that all the wannabe-warriors go home safe at night, they attack their prey in the middle of the night and use incendiary devices to “distract” (and sometimes maim) the occupants.
Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell says this is exactly how he wants his officers to perform, and has no qualms about performing identical raids on residents in his county in the future.
“The door that we entered was the door that we bought dope out of – that’s why entered at that door,” Terrell said. “Our team went by the book. Given the same scenario, we’ll do the same thing again. I stand behind what our team did.”
“We keep asking ourselves, ‘how did this happen?’,” Terrell callously continued. “No one can answer that – you can’t answer that. You try and do everything right. Bad things can happen. That’s just the world we live in. Bad things happen to good people.”
The casualties of the War on Drugs are not as unavoidable as Sheriff Terrell wants people to believe. Had the government not violently intervened, the toddler would be OK. The prohibition against plants and substances poses a far greater threat to Americans than allowing them to have the freedom to purchase and ingest things without government oversight. So long as state-sanctioned violence is used to prevent people from getting high, so too will the needless bloodshed of innocents.
But don’t expect Prohibition Part II to end while drug warriors like Sheriff Terrell are in charge. He went on to say that he believes drug crime tantamount to terrorism.
“The person I blame in this whole thing is the person selling the drugs,” the sheriff continued. “They don’t care about what it does to families. It’s domestic terrorism and I think we should treat them as such.”
“We hate that this happened,” Terrell said. “This tears our soul out, but we cannot stop standing up and being the thin blue line against those who don’t care about, who want to do the domestic terrorism and sell dope and make the money. We’re still going to stand between them and still do our job – we’ve got to.”
UPDATE: BABY SPENDS WEEKS IN A COMA
19-month-old Bou Phonesavanh remains in a coma, in critical condition and cannot breathe on his own without a ventilator. The blast opened up a deep gash in his chest, leaving one lung inoperable. It is estimated that he has a 50% chance of survival. His surgeries are expected to cost $100,000. Readers may contribute to the family here.
“I hope he is not going to remember this,” his mother said of the raid. “I know his sisters, his mom and his daddy are never going to forget this.”
More details about the raid were revealed in a press conference following the incident. Mr. and Mrs. Phonesavanh stood side by side with an attorney and some civil rights advocates to discuss the tactics and behavior of the police.
It was revealed that the parents were kept in the house, without being informed of the severity of their son’s injuries.
“When this family was briefly detained, they had no idea what happened to their son,” said civil rights activist Marcus Coleman, speaking on behalf of the family. “Their son was whisked away in an ambulance. They were told that he did not sustain any serious injuries. When this family continued to ask the officers present, ‘where is my son?’ they were told to ‘shut up and sit down.'”
“This family was treated like criminals,” Coleman continued. “They are victims.”
It was also alleged during the press conference that police lied about the the playpen “blocking the door.” They say the playpen was near the mother’s bed, not the door.
The no-knock raid produced no drugs, no weapons, no bundles of cash, and not even the suspect drug dealer, the Atlanta-Constitution Journal reported. The suspect was later arrested at a different address.
Atlanta has a history of horribly botched no-knock raids. In 2006, Atlanta narcotics officers crashed into the home of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, resulting in her being shot to death. Police then planted drugs in her home to coverup the botched raid.
UPDATE: COUNTY REFUSES TO PAY FOR MAIMED BABY
Habersham County officials have defiantly refused to accept responsibility for injuring Bounkham Phonesavah. The child is now home with his family, but required weeks of hospitalization and life support following his explosive experience with the local SWAT team. The medical bills incurred because of the incident are substantial. Taking into account that the Phonesavah family was technically homeless at the time of the raid — their house burned down and were temporarily staying with a relative — the family is indeed in desperate need of relief.
As of September 2014, the medical bills are estimated to exceed $1,000,000.00.
UPDATE: NO CONSEQUENCES FOR OFFICERS
The SWAT team operators that were involved in the fruitless, botched raid that maimed a toddler will not be criminally charged, a grand jury decided. Despite describing the raid as “hurried, sloppy, and unfortunately not in accordance with the best practices and procedures,” the grand jury gave a “no bill” to the officers who broke down the door and tossed the grenade.
To date, there have been no substantive consequences for any involved. SWAT officers were given a period of paid administrative leave; one supervisor was reassigned with a pay cut; one case agent resigned from the department. No one faced any legal repercussions.
Tell the Sheriff to end his militant no-knock raids and the unprovoked violence used to enforce the War on Drugs.
Help the family: GoFundMe