Saturday, 31 May 2014 11:00

No-Knock Raid: SWAT Team’s Stun Grenade Seriously Injures Toddler

Written by 

A toddler is in a medically induced coma after a Cornelia, Georgia, SWAT team tossed a flash-bang grenade into his crib during the execution of a “no-knock” warrant. The boy’s mother told reporters that he has about a 50-percent chance of survival from the injuries.

Bounkham Phonesavanh is 19 months old and was asleep in his crib when police broke open the front door in the early morning hours Wednesday and threw the grenade into the front room. His mother, father, and three sisters were in the room as well.

“Everyone's sleeping. There's a loud bang and a bright light,” the boy’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, told local news station WSB-TV. “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.”

Police are defending the actions, calling the critical injuries to the toddler a “tragic accident.”

“The last thing you want is law enforcement to injure someone innocent,” Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There was no malicious act performed. It was a terrible accident that was never supposed to happen.”

Earlier statements from police revealed that they saw no indications that there were children in the house. The mother says that isn’t true.

“They say there were no toys,” Alecia Phonesavanh told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There is plenty of stuff. Their shoes were laying all over.”

SWAT team members executed the no-knock warrant after receiving a tip from an informant that he had bought methamphetamine from a man named Wanis Thometheva earlier that day. According to the report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, police learned that the suspected drug dealer was found in possession of a weapon when arrested on a prior drug charge.

“That’s the threat he uses to those who don’t do what he wants,” Sheriff Terrell reportedly told the newspaper.

Thometheva wasn’t present when police entered the house. The Phonesavanh family were there, asleep. They are visiting Georgia only because of fire damage to their home in Wisconsin.

“We have nothing to do with this (drugs),” Bounkham Phonesavanh (the father), told the Atlanta paper.

Upon discovering that the target of the warrant was not at the home, police took notice of the serious injuries to the toddler and began trying to minimize the harm.

Sheriff Terrell told the newspaper that a medic began CPR before the child was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital. The injuries were severe enough for him to have been airlifted to the hospital, but foggy conditions made a helicopter flight “unsafe,” according to the sheriff.

“It blew open his face and his chest,” the boy’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution outside Grady Memorial Hospital. “Everybody was asleep. It’s not like anyone was trying to fight.”

While the child fights for his life in the hospital, his parents and sisters have nowhere to live. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a friend of the family has started an online fundraising page to help them survive until they can return home — with their child, it is hoped.

So-called “no-knock” warrants are becoming increasingly common. In his book Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America, Radley Balko reports that more than 40,000 such operations are conducted every year. He also points out that these warrants almost always involve police busting into someone’s home, thus destroying centuries of Anglo-American protections from government abuse of power:

Americans have long maintained that a man’s home is his castle and that he has the right to defend it from unlawful intruders.

Unfortunately, that right may be disappearing.

The court in the English case of Huckle v. Money (1763) expressed the preeminence of the so-called “Castle Doctrine”: “To enter a man's house by virtue of a nameless warrant, in order to procure evidence, is worse than the Spanish Inquisition; a law under which no Englishman would wish to live an hour.”

In the case of United States v. McConney (1984), the Supreme Court held that “exigent circumstances” could override Fourth Amendment protections of freedom from searches and seizures without a qualifying warrant. According to the McConney ruling, warrants exempt from Fourth Amendment mandates are appropriate in:

those circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry (or other relevant prompt action) was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of a suspect, or some other consequence [that would] improperly frustrate ... legitimate law enforcement efforts.

Balko explained in a 2006 article that those standards are being loosely interpreted by an increasingly militarized police corps:

The tactic is appropriate in a few limited situations, such as when hostages or fugitives are involved, or where the suspect poses an immediate threat to community safety. But increasingly, this highly confrontational tactic is being used in less volatile situations, most commonly to serve routine search warrants for illegal drugs.

He continued:

In the real world, the exigent-circumstances exceptions have been so broadly interpreted since Wilson, they’ve overwhelmed the rule. No-knock raids have been justified on the flimsiest of reasons, including that the suspect was a licensed, registered gun owner (NRA, take note!), or that the mere presence of indoor plumbing could be enough to trigger the “destruction of evidence” exception.

One can reasonably imagine a situation where it would be illogical and contrary to public safety for law enforcement to announce themselves. Breaking into a home at 3 a.m. and throwing flash-bang ordnance in order to possibly find a person who allegedly sold meth to a meth addict being paid by police to give them tips is hardly one of those situations, however.

Balko agrees:

These raids are often launched on tips from notoriously unreliable confidential informants. Rubber-stamp judges, dicey informants, and aggressive policing have thus given rise to the countless examples of “wrong door” raids we read about in the news. In fact, there’s a disturbingly long list of completely innocent people who’ve been killed in “wrong door” raids, including New York City worker Alberta Spruill, Boston minister Accelyne Williams, and a Mexican immigrant in Denver named Ismael Mena.

When the truth comes out, if ever, it could be that this 19-month-old child had his face and chest blown open by a grenade thrown by a cop who just busted in the wrong door. Regardless of how accurate the information the SWAT team received from its “confidential informant,” it will likely be discovered that this exercise of arbitrary and excessive force was carried out by police who were outfitted more like soldiers than law enforcement officers.

 

Joe A. Wolverton, II, J.D. is a correspondent for The New American and travels nationwide speaking on nullification, the Second Amendment, the surveillance state, and other constitutional issues.  Follow him on Twitter @TNAJoeWolverton and he can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

4 comments

  • Comment Link Old Mullet Tuesday, 03 June 2014 11:24 posted by Old Mullet

    This tragedy is just one more example of a federal takeover of our Constitution and rights in a free Republic. It should be noted that the Congress (who made their own law whereas no member of Congress can be removed except by Congress) remain conspicuously quiet. How does the American citizen protect their home if they must allow strangers to forcefully enter their home in the dead of night dressed as thieves, brandishing weapons and blinding lights? Could not criminals claim to be "the police"? If a homeowner attempts to defend themselves they will be shot or beaten with no explanation or remorse by the offenders. How indeed is this federally sanctioned Nazi tactic to be taken but as ultimate control by an out of control government? How do honest citizens protect their families and themselves? No one seems to care enough to find an answer.

  • Comment Link Starte Christ Tuesday, 03 June 2014 01:27 posted by Starte Christ

    Jesus, thank you for sending the miracle of Love to Bounkham Phonesavanh; help him recover quickly.

    Jesus, thank you for sending the miracle of Love to Alecia and Bounkham, and everyone they know; help them live free and easy.

    Jesus, thank you for sending the miracle of Love to the Cornelia GA Swat team; help them live free and easy.

    Alecia, Forgive Joey Terrell as soon as possible. He does not know what he is doing. His real target is himself. It is his cry to you and me for Love. You can accelerate Bounkham's recovery with this very important gesture of Love. What else can you offer someone who is in so much pain? Can you Forgive him, Alecia? Bounkham prefers your undivided attention to help his recovery.

  • Comment Link Nora Monday, 02 June 2014 22:17 posted by Nora

    It's heartbreaking that another family has had their lives changed forever by overzealous militarized cops. Those responsible for this tragedy should be held accountable and dismissed, including the rubber stamp judge. They should be made to pay this baby's medical bills from their own salaries. This is clearly the hand of Satan at work. God help us.

  • Comment Link Michael Dalene Monday, 02 June 2014 21:59 posted by Michael Dalene

    All the officers, the DA/AG's and judges that encourage and endorse such action, and their superiors, should immediately resign and then go home and splatter their brains all over their living rooms while their children watch--- BUT ONLY AFTER HAVING TOLD THEIR CHILDREN THAT THEY ARE LOW LIFE TREASONOUS COWARDS and what they are doing is the only Honorable recourse...

    If either or both parents execute all those involved with this act of TERROR, not only should they NOT be charged, but they should be Awarded the "Medal of Freedom."

    If the scumbags are such "Brave Hero's" why would they put any civilian at risk regardless of the threat to them? If it were my Kid or someone I held dearly--- there'd be no pace in existence anywhere in the Universe they could hide where I wouldn't find them... I'd hunt them down with a zealous passion for revenge so Great it would make the most dedicated Nazi-hunting Jew look like a Saint--- and Hitler, Stalin, and Mengele look like "caring and humane" people!

Please Log In To Comment
Log in