Injured boy's family wants federal review of raid

Alecia and Bounkham Phonesavanh (rear left), the parents of the 19-month-old who was severely burned by a flash grenade during a drug raid, attend a vigil with their daughters and supporters outside Grady Memorial Hospital, where he is undergoing treatment,



ATLANTA — A Georgia family and a state lawmaker are demanding that federal authorities investigate the case of a toddler severely injured by a flash grenade during a drug raid.

Bounkham Phonesavanh – a 19-month-old nicknamed “Bou Bou” – remained in a medically induced coma Monday. Habersham County District Attorney Brian Rick­man said his office is investigating to determine whether any officers will face criminal charges.

Police have said officers were searching for a potentially armed drug suspect at the home and did not know children were inside when they rammed the door and dropped a flash grenade inside the door.

The grenade landed in the sleeping boy’s playpen, according to authorities and the boy’s family. The grenades create a bright flash and loud noise and are commonly used to distract or stun suspects.

Georgia state Sen. Vincent Fort, who has sponsored legislation in the past to limit “no-knock” warrants, said he plans to ask the U.S. attorney to review the case.

“At this point when you look at these pictures, when you hear what was done, the public’s confidence in the district attorney to conduct an objective investigation – the public’s confidence in that is nil,
it’s gone, it’s not there,” Fort said.

The district attorney collected no evidence at the home, so the family has hired an investigator to do so, said their attorney, Mawuli Mel Davis.

Rickman said his office is still gathering statements, photos and other evidence from agencies involved with the raid and would like to speak with the Phonesavanh family.

The raid had not been cleared by either the district attorney or the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, despite Habersham County Sher­iff Joey Terrell’s earlier statements to the contrary, Rickman said. A call to Terrell’s office Monday was not returned.

“Anytime you look at pictures of a child injured like that, it’s awful,” Rickman said. “Everybody’s heart goes out to the family. We’ve just got to do our job here.”

The boy’s father and mother, Bounkham and Alecia Phonesavanh, left their son briefly Monday to thank supporters during a prayer rally outside the Atlanta hospital where he is being treated.

The parents wrapped their arms around each other’s shoulders and held hands with their three daughters, all wearing pink. Church leaders and other supporters stood around them, holding pictures of the toddler before and after the raid that injured him.

“Thank you for your prayers, everybody,” Bounk­ham Phonesavanh said quietly. “Thank you.”

The boy was scheduled to have surgery Monday until he developed a fever that delayed the procedure, his mother said.

The target of the raid was Wanis Thonetheva, 30, who police believed lived at the home based on information from a confidential informant who had recently bought drugs there.

Thonetheva was not in the home when police raided it early Wednesday. He was arrested later and charged with distribution of methamphetamine.

The Phonesavanh family was staying with family after their Wisconsin home was damaged in a fire. Thone­theva is Bounkham Phone­savanh’s nephew, but the Phonesavanhs were not involved with drugs, Davis said during Monday’s rally.