Alecia and Bounkham Phonesavanh never owed anyone a dime before May 28th 2014. Now, because of a Georgia SWAT team, they are taking care of a severely injured son and are crippled with debt.
In the spring of 2014, a fire destroyed the Phonesavanhâ€™s home in Janesville, Wisconsin. Without a home, and with four young children, they went to stay with Bounkhamâ€™s sister in Cornelia, Georgia. The parents, along with their children, all slept in one room. After two months the family found a new house in Wisconsin, and they were planning to return home. They had no idea that their lives were about to be changed forever.
Around 2 a.m on May 28th, the family was awakened by a loud explosion in their bedroom. The Special Response Team from the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office burst into the bedroom. According to police reports, Habersham Deputy Charles Long threw a â€œflash-bangâ€ grenade into the room. It landed in 18-month-old Bounkham Jr’s pack-and-play.
Bounkham Jr, known as Bou Bou, started screaming, and Alecia immediately went to grab him. But Alecia says Deputy Jason Stribling picked up the child before she could reach him.
â€œI kept telling him, â€˜Just give me my son. He’s scared. He needs me. The officer wouldn’t. And then he walked out of the room with [Bou Bou] and I didn’t see him again.â€
They didn’t realize at that time that the blast from the flash-bang grenade severely injured the baby. Bou Bouâ€™s face and torso were severely burned, and his lung had collapsed.
The child was taken in an ambulance before either parent had a chance to see him.
â€œI asked if he got hurt. And they said, â€˜No, your son is fine. He has not sustained any serious injury,â€ Alecia Phonesavanh remembers. â€œThey ended up telling us that he had lost a tooth.â€
But the father knew that was a lie. He saw a pool of blood, burn marks on the crib and Bou Bou’s pillow blown apart.
At Grady Memorial Hospital, doctors placed the baby in a medically induced coma. â€œHis chest wall had torn down to muscle,â€ says Dr. Walter Ingram, head of Gradyâ€™s burn trauma unit. â€œAnd it tore his face down to bone, down to his teeth.â€
The parents couldn’t understand why the police were not just truthful with them in the first place.
The whole incident happened because a drug task force was looking for Bounkham Phonesavanhâ€™s nephew, who police suspected was selling methamphetamine. A “no knock” police warrant allowed the team to enter the house unannounced. A grand jury was convened to look into the botched police raid, and after six days, they found â€œthe drug investigation that led to these events was hurried, sloppy.â€
Although, they did not recommend criminal charges against any of the officers involved.
Since the incident, the toddler has undergone surgeries to repair his face and torso. The Phonesavanh family says they are facing around $1 million in debt from hospital costs. Habersham County officials will not pay the medical bills because of a”gratuity” law in Georgia that prohibits them from compensating the family. The Phonesavanh family still has the option to file a civil lawsuit, and a federal investigation is now underway by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. A lawyer for theÂ family said,Â â€œNow that the state grand jury has declined to return an indictment, we are reviewing the matter and conducting our own investigation.â€