No members of the SWAT team that stormed the wrong home and threw a grenade in the crib of an infant in northern Georgia, blowing his face apart and putting him in critical condition, have served any prison time. But the parents of a baby injured during that botched drug raid were finally awarded a $3.6 million settlement by a judge after two long years.
The county responsible, however, has refused to pay any portions of the more than $1 million in medical bills racked up to cover the expenses of the multiple facial surgeries to repair the face of 19-month-old Bounkham “ Baby Bou Bou” Phonesavanh.
One wayward law enforcement officer, former sheriff deputy Nikki Autry, was indicted on federal charges after an FBI and GBI investigation found she provided false information to obtain the no-knock warrant, which led to the smoke grenade being thrown into the baby crib, blowing up on the baby’s face and chest.
The incident in question occurred in May of 2014 in Cornelia, Ga. The Phonesavanh family’s Wisconsin home had burned down, so the mother, father and their four children moved in with a relative and lived in one room. Suddenly, at 2 a.m., the family was scared awake by a SWAT team that burst through the door and threw a flash-bang stun grenade, which landed and exploded in the baby’s crib as he slept.
The mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, testified that officers immediately picked up Bou Bou and shielded her from seeing him. She was ordered back on the floor and heard the baby wailing in excruciating pain. She saw that the crib was singed, she saw the smoke and she could see the pool of blood.
Despite that, the mother was told by officers her son only suffered a lost tooth, but later, a social worker informed her that her son was being treated for burns. The baby was in critical condition with burns on his face and chest.
The SWAT team was reportedly searching for a meth dealer when they raided the wrong house. The suspect had sold drugs near the Phonesavanh family’s residence, but he lived across town, reported ABC’s “20/20” in a 2014 segment on the incident.
Bou Bou survived and now lives a normal, happy life. Although his family is stuck with around $1 million in medical bills and no one will be charged in the tragedy, the Phonesavanhs can now receive some justice in the form of the $3.6 million settlement.
“We have worked diligently with our co-counsel to obtain the best possible result for Baby Bou Bou and his family,” Attorney Mawuli Mel Davis of Davis Bozeman Law Firm said in a statement. “What we achieved will not fix what happened or take away the nightmares, but we hope it helps them move forward as a family.”
Marcus Coleman, a local community activist and president of Save OurSelves Organization, says the situation is “still … a travesty”, despite the settlement, and that the family has been financially crippled after being made to pay for their infant’s medical bills despite being completely innocent and vindicated of any charges.
No drugs were ever found in that home.