Toddler burned by SWAT grenade faces another surgery, as police defend raid

Reuters / Stephen LamRT News

The toddler severely burned and left unable to breathe on his own when a Georgia SWAT team threw a flashbang grenade in his crib during a Thursday drug raid is preparing for another surgery on Monday… all for a single meth sale of $50.

Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, a 19-month-old, was asleep in his portable crib in the same room as his parents and three older sisters, when police opened the door to the converted garage and threw the stun grenade in. It landed in the crib with Bou Bou.  

The flashbang opened up a deep gash in Bou Bou’s chest and caused severe burns. Now his family says the toddler is fighting for his life in a medically induced coma, has lost the use of one lung and is unable to breathe on his own. He faces more surgeries, and it is uncertain if he will even live. On Friday, his chances of survival were listed at 50 percent.

The multi-jurisdictional Georgia SWAT team was executing a no-knock warrant at 3 a.m. on the home where a confidential informant had purchased drugs earlier in the day. The CI said he bought methamphetamine from Wanis Thometheva there on Tuesday. Police told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that investigators had discovered Thometheva had weapons (including an AK-47) during a previous arrest on drug charges.

But a public official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post the raid was conducted over a single meth sale of $50.

The police department said they had no idea there were any children in the house. “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,” Cornelia Police Chief Rick Darby said to WSB-TV.

The child’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, said it was obvious there were children present in the home. “If they had an informant in that house, they knew there were kids,” Phonesavanh told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday. “They say there were no toys. There is plenty of stuff. Their shoes were laying all over.”

The family’s attorney says police did no investigative work before embarking on the raid.

“They had been in this home for about two months,” lawyer Mawuli Mel Davis said to WSB-TV“This is a stay-at-home dad who was out in front of the home, playing with the children on a daily basis. Any surveillance that was done would have revealed there was a father with four children who played in that driveway.”

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell acknowledged the lack of surveillance on the home, but 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.

According to Terrell, the family knew Thometheva was a drug dealer.

“They [told us they] knew that the homeowner’s son was selling meth, so they kept the children out of sight in a different room while any of these going-ons were happening,” Terrell said to WXIA. “So when [our confidential informants] did go up and buy drugs at the house, they didn’t see any evidence of children in the home.”

The Phonesavanhs had been staying in the house after a fire at their Wisconsin home two months before. They told the AJC they knew Thometheva had problems with the law, but were assured he had straightened up his life.

Just before the raid, the Phonesavanhs had decided the Georgia house wasn’t a good environment and had reserved a moving van to move back to Wisconsin. “Things were not as good as what we were told,”Alecia said.

Habersham County Chief Assistant District Attorney J. Edward Staples said Thometheva could also be charged in connection with the baby’s injuries.

The Phonesavanh family does not have insurance, so a family friend has created an online fundraising page to help with costs.

6 thoughts on “Toddler burned by SWAT grenade faces another surgery, as police defend raid

  1. Swat team over $50, and we are protecting poppy fields in Afghanistan. The police have lost their way.

  2. Today, the police are the ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE. Back in the day, before cops pulled a raid, you were supposed to know all about the people you were raiding: whether infirm, elderly or children were present and where in the house they would likely be. The fact that children, elderly, or infirm were occupants dictated special precautions, or nullifying a raid completely. Instead, suspects were arrested elsewhere under circumstances likely to minimize any harm to anyone.

    That is no longer operative today. Presently, cops smash their way in, toss concussion grenades everywhere, and scare the bejesus out of everyone, including themselves. Police are taught to act crazy to instil fear in civilians. The trouble with that, is some of them are already crazy and tend get nuttier when they get pumped up. And there is always the likelihood in scaring somebody, that they will follow through on their inclinations, thus accidental discharges, and unwarranted assaults, and killings occur with some degree of frequency. These situations also may trigger a police beating or killing frenzy…just like sharks with blood in the water, snapping jaws at anything within reach.

    So why use concussion grenades? Well, the military uses them in bunker or in barricade clearing situations, as the blast and flash tend to stun enemy troops, allowing assaulting forces to mow them down before they can recover. Military SOPs call for soldiers in an assault team to grenade a room to kill or stun any enemy inside. That’s routine. Then the assault team fire bursts from automatic weapons in an X pattern, then the team goes in from opposite directions-high and low, to take out anyone left alive, and then secure the scene, and move on to the next situation.

    The Israelis teach this to our guys…don’t matter who is in the room. If there are innocents-old ladies or children, present and they get blasted or riddled by grenades or gunfire, the response is “ce la vie, fortunes of war.” Don’t ask me how I know this.

    There are many cons in using concussion grenades inside buildings. The blasts are intense and can set off fires. The blasts can kill and or severely burn or maim. The explosions can stun your own team, if close enough. And like with any grenade, they are prone to hanging fire and suspects may toss them back at you. They should be judiciously used, and only as a last resort when facing armed and hardened criminals, who refuse to surrender and when their use precludes harming innocents.

    In essence, what does this tell you? Could it be that the police armed with military weapons, using military tactics are at war with civilians? Seems like it. Police have been at war with American civilians using these weapons and tactics since the ‘War on Crime,’ followed by the ‘War on Drugs,’ followed by the ‘War on Terror’…over 40 years.

    Just because you don’t think you are in a war, doesn’t mean you are not in a war.

    Please pray for the little one.

    Quintus Dias

  3. What else would you expect a bunch of psycho murdering bastards to say but they are right what ever they do and you are wrong. As the baby they ruined lies there suffering.Those filthy BASTARDS and the pigs defending them need to all hang for their crimes! Now please someone tell me all about the good ones and then tell me about the unicorns!

  4. Just because you are serving a warant does not give cops the right to get off scott free when an innocent person is harmed. If you can’t do it safely for the family members at the same home then don’t do it, you can’t just take into account the safety of the police when initiating a raid.

  5. Like to see a phosphorous grenade well duct-taped to the crotches of each one of these pukes.

    If they survive, at least they won’t ever breed.

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