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Atlanta SWAT team hits baby with flashbang grenade

19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh was seriously injured when SWAT officers threw a flashbang grenade into his playpen.

On May 29, WSB-TV in Atlanta reported that a SWAT team raided a home and hit a 19-month old boy with a flashbang grenade.

Alecia Phonesavanh told WSB-TV’s Ryan Young that her son Bounkham is at the Grady Memorial Hospital burn unit and is in a medically induced coma as a result of the grenade landing in his playpen and detonating next to his chest and face. The grenade also burned a 2-foot (61 cm) hole in the playpen.

“Everyone's sleeping. There's a loud bang and a bright light,” Phonesavanh said. “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.”

Bounkham has now lost the use of one of his lungs. “The nurse explained it to me. His laceration on his chest is pretty deep, down to the muscle. They can’t close it up yet because all of the charring from the explosion,” Phonesavanh said. “He still needs help breathing. He’ll need that help for a while. He has a big bruise on his lung from the impact. His lung is useless right now. As long as we have faith and he's got lots of love, love will make anybody strong.” Doctors give Bounkham a 50 percent chance of survival.

Alecia's home in Wisconsin burned down recently, leading them to visit family in Atlanta. Phonesavanh said she was at her sister-in-law’s home in Habersham County early Wednesday when the paramilitary invaders broke into the house.

Deputies said they bought drugs from Wanis Thometheva, 30, in the house, and came back with a no-knock warrant for his arrest. Cornelia Police Chief Rick Darby confirmed that the raid took place at the home just before 3:00 a.m. EDT on May 28. The raiders found no contraband materials or weapons, and Thometheva was not present. He was arrested elsewhere that night.

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell defended the actions of the SWAT team, saying, “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?’ 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.”

“There’s nothing we can do to change the situation, my husband and I would gladly both give up our lives just to see him not like this. He’s such a happy little boy, and to see him like this laying there, not moving, it’s heartbreaking. We just want to hold him and we can’t,” Phonesavanh said.

If a private citizen acted in the same manner as the SWAT team, they would be facing charges including, but perhaps not limited to, aggravated assault, burglary, criminal trespass, and cruelty to children in the first degree, and would be facing at least 7 to 60 years in prison upon conviction. But because the SWAT officers are agents of the state, and the state has a monopoly on the enactment and enforcement of laws, they are likely to face no punishment for this atrocity.

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