You may remember that early on the morning of May 30, a SWAT team in Cornelia, Georgia burst into a house looking for a man suspected of distributing meth. They threw a flashbang grenade into the house to smoke him out. In the process, they nearly killed Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, the suspected meth-head's two-year-old cousin, whose midsection was practically blown open by the blast. Yesterday, his mom, Alecia, wrote about her family's ordeal for Salon.
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.Wow. If this is in fact true, then the commander of that SWAT team needs to be out of a job, and out of a job yesterday. There is NO defensible reason to throw a flashbang grenade into a home with young children in it. Period, full stop.
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.
The grenade landed in Bou Bou's crib and exploded right in his face. The force of the blast left him with severe burns, and also tore a hole in his chest that left his ribs exposed. It's so bad that Alecia has been too scared to look.
According to Alecia, even though it should have been obvious Bou Bou was gravely injured, the officers wasted precious seconds rummaging through the house--and wouldn't let Alecia tend to Bou Bou.
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.As it turned out, the meth-head didn't even live in the house.
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.
Alecia's kids may be traumatized by this for some time to come. One night, their eight-year-old woke up screaming, "No, don’t kill him! You’re hurting my brother! Don’t kill him." Largely because of this, she's working with the ACLU to curb the use of SWAT teams--particularly the use of weapons that were intended for the army.
Earlier this week, Bou Bou was transferred from Grady Memorial Hospital to Scottish Rite Hospital in order to start what will likely be a very long rehab. He's out of the coma now, but the hole in his chest hasn't healed yet. He may also have brain damage.
Bou Bou's family has a Website to bring awareness to their cause called Justice for Baby Bou Bou. Like them on Facebook as well. The family is actively considering their legal options for what they rightly describe as "criminal negligence." Hopefully an awful lot of people will end up having to answer for this--under oath.