How Cops Became Baby Burners

The horrifying collateral damage inflicted by the war on drugs

When Alecia Phonesavanh heard her 19-month-old son, Bounkham, screaming, she thought he was simply frightened by the armed men who had burst into the house in the middle of the night. Then she saw the charred remains of the portable playpen where the toddler had been sleeping, and she knew something horrible had happened.

Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh, who is in a medically induced coma at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, may never wake up. But the appalling injuries he suffered during a police raid in Habersham County, Georgia, last week should awaken the country to the moral obscenity that is the war on drugs.

Two months ago, after a fire at their home in Wisconsin, Alecia Phonesavanh, her husband, and their four children, ranging in age from 1 to 7, moved in with relatives who live just of outside of Cornelia, Georgia. The whole family slept together in a garage that had been converted into a bedroom.

Sometime before 3 a.m. on May 28, a SWAT team consisting of Habersham County sheriff's deputies and Cornelia police officers broke into that room. One of the cops tossed a flash-bang grenade, which creates a blinding light and loud noise that are supposed to disorient the targets of a raid. It landed in Bou Bou's playpen and exploded in his face, causing severe burns and a deep chest wound.

The cops were looking for the Phonesavanhs' 30-year-old nephew, Wanis Thonetheva, who a few hours before had allegedly sold methamphetamine to a confidential informant from the same doorway through which the SWAT team entered. They had obtained a "no knock" warrant by claiming Thonetheva was apt to be armed and dangerous.

Thonetheva was not there, and police did not find any drugs, cash, or guns either. When they arrested him later that morning at a different location, he had about an ounce of meth but no weapons.

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell and Cornelia Police Chief Rick Darby said their officers would not have used a "distraction device" if they knew children were living in the house they attacked. But their investigation of that possibility seems to have consisted entirely of asking their informant, who according to Terrell was at the house only briefly and did not go inside.

Even rudimentary surveillance should have discovered signs of children, who according to the Phonesavanhs' lawyer played with their father in the front yard every day. Alecia Phonesavanh told ABC News there were "family stickers" on the minivan parked "right near the door they kicked in," which contained four child seats, and "my son's old playpen was right outside because we were getting ready to leave" for Wisconsin. Anyone who entered the house would have seen toys and children's clothes.

Last week Terrell claimed Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brian Rickman had assured him the officers involved in the raid did everything right and "there's nothing to investigate." Rickman, who says he is conducting a thorough review, denies telling Terrell that. But the issue here goes beyond sloppy police work.

Terrell says Thonetheva is to blame for Bou Bou's injuries, and the alleged meth dealer may even face criminal charges based on that theory. But Thonetheva did not toss an explosive, incendiary device into a baby's crib; the police did that, in the service of an odious ideology that says violence is an acceptable response to consensual transactions in which people exchange money for drugs that legislators do not like.

"The little baby [who] was in there didn't deserve this," Terrell told WXIA, the NBC station in Atlanta. "These drug dealers don't care."

Terrell, by contrast, cares so much about the psychoactive substances his neighbors consume that he is willing to endanger the lives of innocent bystanders in his vain attempt to stop people from getting high. If people like Terrell cared a little less, Bou Bou would be home with his parents instead of clinging to life in a hospital.

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  • ||

    Broken Arrow: would someone call in a napalm strike on the squirrels?

  • UnCivilServant||

    There was a bad omen this morning - There was a squirrel on my porch.

  • Astra||

    If they don't stop stealing my tomatoes, I may be forced to this expedient.

  • Cyto||

    Well, this proves it: Drugs Kill.

  • ||

    Tried to post a trenchant comment four times and gave up. Maybe this one, free of any useful or relevant opinion, will go through, thus defining the squirrel comment filter.

  • ||

    Aha, I seem to have determined The Path. Say nothing relevant. How clever those rodents are!

  • Doctor Whom||

    Sweet baby Baphomet, no! The comments will fill up with blathering from Tony, Buttplug, and Alice.

  • JaredT||

    "The horrifying collateral damage inficted by the war on drugs"

    I think you mean "inflicted". I blame the squirrels.

  • WTF||

    "The horrifying collateral damage inficted by a bunch of baboons getting on their fake warrior boners."

  • SQRLSY One||

    All this talk of squirrels… I just MUST speak up! AH AHMS the SQRLSY ONE!!!
    Scienfoology Song… GAWD = Government Almighty’s Wrath Delivers

    Government loves me, This I know,
    For the Government tells me so,
    Little ones to GAWD belong,
    We are weak, but GAWD is strong!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    My Nannies tell me so!

    GAWD does love me, yes indeed,
    Keeps me safe, and gives me feed,
    Shelters me from bad drugs and weed,
    And gives me all that I might need!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    My Nannies tell me so!

    DEA, CIA, KGB,
    Our protectors, they will be,
    FBI, TSA, and FDA,
    With us, astride us, in every way!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    My Nannies tell me so!

  • SQRLSY One||

    (GAWD = Government Almighty’s Wrath Delivers, and
    SHAMM = Statist Heaven Above Mere Mortals)
    Our GAWD, Who dwells in SHAMM,
    Hallowed be Thy Name;
    Thy Taxes come in,
    Thy Bennies go out,
    All across the land,
    Powered by Thy Wrath.
    Give us more bread and circuses,
    More military crusades,
    And more stimulus funds.
    Keep us safe from earpoppers
    And lung flutes. Lead us not into
    Disobedience, but shelter us through
    Your Nannies. Forgive us
    When we are politically incorrect.
    For Yours is the Power and the Glory
    of the Pyramind Scheme, Forever and Ever,
    Amen!
    (This Worship Session brought to you by the Church of Scienfoology; see http://www.churchofsqrls.com/ )

  • croaker||

    If by "squirrels" you mean "law enforcement officers who get off on kicking in doors and shooting dogs, and have no business carrying a badge" I would agree with you.

  • Drake||

    Anyone can make a few fatal mistakes.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....r-in-2009/

  • Doctor Whom||

    In the burned toddler raid, Terrell told the paper that District Attorney Brian Rickman had already cleared the task force of any wrongdoing. That’s a remarkably fast investigation given that the raid happened less than two days ago. Rickman also cleared the cops in the Ayers case. So did the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Rickman would tell a local paper that the investigations went “to extraordinary lengths,” and, “I do not see how anybody could say the process was unfair based on the lengths that they went to.”

    So the government repeatedly "investigated" itself and cleared itself of wrongdoing? Is there a uniform-regulation shocked face that I can wear?

  • Marshall Gill||

    Since their "investigation" of if there were children in the house amounted to asking the CI what they thought, this sounds pretty in depth.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    They were merely conforming to a corrupt and oppressive system. No rules were broken because the rules allow for the occasional burned toddler and frequently shot canines.

  • Free Society||

    These cops deserve to be treated like anyone else who burned the face off a child. No immunity, no special treatment, no paid vacation.

    So the government repeatedly "investigated" itself and cleared itself of wrongdoing?

    And furthermore, the state should be destroyed.

  • David Wall||

    Free Society--

    Take your anarcho-bs agenda and stuff it. You are pushing your agenda using the justified, horrified reaction to an atrocity perpetrated by a rights-violating state.

    States waging stupid, horrific wars against man-made substances doesn't mean we do not need a state. It means we need a state that performs its proper function: protecting babies and the individual rights of their parents rather than harming and violating both.

  • Free Society||

    Take your anarcho-bs agenda and stuff it. You are pushing your agenda using the justified, horrified reaction to an atrocity perpetrated by a rights-violating state.

    Is that an argument? This atrocity was perpetrated by the state, like so many others. Damn right there is a correlation between injustice and the coercive institution you defend.

    There is no such thing as a state that does not violate peoples rights.

    It means we need a state that performs its proper function: protecting babies and the individual rights of their parents rather than harming and violating both.

    The state is not a moral entity, it is an amoral entity at best. It's a sociopathic institution. The state is machine for meting out coercion. A machine purpose built, the greatest purveyor of injustice in human history is the state and people like yourself, who validate it's existence. 260 million corpses from the last century attest to that.

    No the drug war alone does not preclude the unjust existence of the state. Anyone of the sum total of it's crimes will do nicely.

  • Free Society||

    You are pushing your agenda using the justified, horrified reaction to an atrocity

    And for this comment let me just say; go fuck yourself. As if the only ethical conclusion to hold is that a smaller, less rapey government should be implemented.

    I see a baby mutilated by a government with impunity, that outrages me. It tares at me, the immorality of the people who justify the state cause this to happen every single day. People like you who put governments into some separate moral category, a category with different moral obligations, you are the reason this sort of injustice persists in the world. You're damn right I denounce the institution that perpetuates these atrocities.

  • Brian||

    It's like the saying: "The real scandal isn't what's illegal, it's what's legal."

  • ||

    I can't stop thinking of this baby boy. It tears my heart. Have these cops and "investigators" gone to see Bou Bou? How can they be so blase about it?

    I can only imagine some sort of pathology would allow someone to excuse themselves for such an atrocity.

  • sarcasmic||

    Oh it's pretty simple. They blame someone else. Like when they beat someone to death, it's the victim's fault for resisting. Or when they kill someone's dog, it's the dog's fault for barking. Or when they maim a child, it's the parents' fault for associating themselves with a drug dealer.

    There's always someone to blame.

  • astronomical object||

    Speak of the devil, "Officers Fatally Shoot Family's [middle-age with hip problems] Dog [seven times] Responding to Home's Alarm System [then steal the dog's body before the owners arrive home - and refuse to return it for burial.]

    http://houston.cbslocal.com/20.....rm-system/

  • Riven||

    It's too early for double nut-punches. I haven't even had my second cup of coffee yet.

  • Kevin47||

    I'm more sympathetic to the cops in that case. An alarm system is assent to have the cops come to your house, and rottweilers are pretty psychotic.

  • ImanAzol||

    Old rottys with hip problems are psychotic dangers to men in armor?

    Cool story, bro. Does that cock taste good?

  • croaker||

    Any cop cock tastes good to these kind of people.

  • Tonio||

    I imagine the absolute last thing the family would want would be for the near-killers of their infant relative to be skulking about the hospital. Assume that family is there all the time. Plus, vists or attempted visits could be seen later as either an admission of guilt or attempted intimidation.

  • Free Society||

    I can only imagine some sort of pathology would allow someone to excuse themselves for such an atrocity.

    It's a called 'statism' and there are even members of this board who will justify it and excuse the perpetrators of all the worst crimes in human history.

  • amagi1776||

    If I had the means, and the ability, I would mail a graphic picture of Bou Bou, laid up in the ICU with tubes flowing in and out of his tiny body to every member of the SWAT Team at home, and the Sheriff, and his family.

    It would be accompanied by a short letter that explained that they are responsible. Only them.

    That would occur for the rest of their lives.

    Maybe the soul crushing guilt might change some hearts and minds.

  • ||

    I'd help pay postage.

  • datcv||

    I'd send it to all their neighbors to let them know they've got a guilt-less baby maimer living in the neighborhood.

  • DenverJay||

    While you are at it, send a copy to every citizen of Habersham County; they share equal blame for electing the Sheriff and refusing to rein in his goon squad. (when this story was posted in H+R someone claimed that a nearby prison was a major employer in the area. If true, well, of course they want more people in prison to protect their jobs, how evil is that?)
    Also, send a copy to the state legislature, which continues to empower and allow these kind of activities, along with the state voters, I guess. Then there are the Federal laws, so include Congress and the President, and all US voters...
    Ah hell, shorter version: God Damn this Statist nation, once known as the Land of the Free.

  • croaker||

    Don't bother with mail. Make posters with Bou Bou in ICU picture. Find out where the SWAT officers live. Staple posters to trees and power poles with the name of the officer on it.

    Let the neighbors to the rest.

  • Slammer||

    I guess drugs ARE dangerous: voluntary sales of disapproved drugs among consenting adults causes child victims.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Premise: Drugs are dangerous.

    Argument: Look at how dangerous we make it for you when a relative of yours is even accused of selling drugs.

    Conclusion: Drugs are dangerous.

  • iEagleHammer||

    Conclusion: The possible existence of drugs is dangerous.

    Since these raids are performed frequently on innocent people

  • DenverJay||

    Conclusion: Drugs Governments are dangerous.

    FIFY

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Once you have successfully convinced yourself your enemy is not human, you can do anything you want and sleep like a baby at night.

    It was the baby's fault.

  • Free Society||

    This is why the state needs to be destroyed.

  • Rob||

    No, some type of minimal state will always be necessary. I find Robert Nozick's Night Watchman State more appealing than what we have today, but I don't believe a pure anarchist system can exist.

    For anyone interested I found a PDF copy Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia on the Universiy of Colorado - Boulder's website: http://www.colorado.edu/philos.....ozick.pdf.

  • Free Society||

    The US had the closest thing to a Nightwatchman state if there ever was one, yet today it's the most powerful government the world has ever known. There is no self-evident reason to justify the continued existence of the state. Protection of life, liberty and property are products, they are services. And as is true of all other products, the protection of those things would be better delivered by a free market. State monopolies aren't efficient and more importantly they're not moral.

    I don't believe a successful statist system can exist, not without the blood and treasure of it's ever-more numerous victims to grease it's murdering wheels.

  • DenverJay||

    The problem is that in order to provide some of these services, violence, or rather the power to overcome violence with greater violence, becomes necessary. For instance: the Huns are invading and wish to take your stuff and women. You can hire or recruit your own armed forces, which may provide a sort of stalemate, but is likely to result in the sort of situation northern Afghanistan experiences, similar to Europe after Rome withdrew: local warlords providing "protection" in exchange for fealty.
    This is, in essence, the first step "above" Locke's State of Nature, where every man has total power to make war.
    But this condition has obvious drawbacks, mainly living in a constant state of war or near war.
    The western theory of the State is that all individuals give up their power to make war, deeding it to the State, on the condition that all other individuals do as well. Thus, the State ends up with a monopoly on violence.

  • DenverJay||

    PART 2: I think that theory is sound, but the key is to limit the State's ability to wield that violence. The US Constitution is a great document, and set up just such a system. The problem is that it is now being ignored. One can not expect a perfect system to be setup using imperfect men. The people have to control their government, generation after generation. If one sets a fire to provide fire's benefits, it is obvious that the fire needs to be kept under control, you can't just light it and walk away.
    But that is what Americans have done with government: they have lit the fire, and stopped tending it, just walked away, letting it grow and grow, until it consumes everything. You can't blame the fire, it is the nature of fire to grow.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Burn, baby, burn :(

    I pray the baby gets patched up and the cops - well, they ought to pass a law making it a crime to burn babies, since apparently it's legal now or they would have been indicted!

  • Tonio||

    Doubling-down on your callous idiocy, Eddie.

    Congratulations, you've lost any claim to moral authority to lecture others about treatment of babies or those organism which some see as babies (yes, abortion).

  • Kevin47||

    For making a dumb joke? No.

  • DenverJay||

    And I would bet that Sheriff Joey Terrell opposes abortion, because , you know, you don't want to kill babies, especially in a horrible and painful manner...

    follow up, this pitiful excuse for a human being laughs about it and calls citizens upset about his department's actions terrorists!

  • DenverJay||

    And I would bet that Sheriff Joey Terrell opposes abortion, because , you know, you don't want to kill babies, especially in a horrible and painful manner...

    follow up, this pitiful excuse for a human being laughs about it and calls citizens upset about his department's actions terrorists!

  • DenverJay||

    my mistake, he is calling the drug dealers terrorists

  • Eggs Benedict Cumberbund||

    Burn all the babies!! - Little Tina

  • Agile Cyborg||

    Placing a harmless baby in every meth/crack house in the country wouldn't stop a single fucking raid... just be a whole lotta dead, ruined, or crying babies while nematodes in cute uniforms with fat belts on their shit-laden guts walk around outraged while gleefully planning the next assault... because dealers can always be blamed.

    Makes sense in a way. When the US military kills innocent men, women, and children during a time of battle those casual murders can always be attributed to terrorists or whatever the fuck villains this country can scavenge out of the political fear-mongering wood.

  • AlbedoAtoned||

    Getting real sick of their victim blaming.

    Let's look at the facts.

    While producing meth can be dangerous, and the effects of taking it can be dangerous. Meth did not burn this baby's face.

    Selling meth did not burn this baby's face.

    The amount of meth the guy even had could not have burned this baby's face.

    He wasn't even home TO burn this baby's face.

    So how did this baby's face get burned?

    He got burned by a flash bang, which is not something you should set off next to a baby's face.

    Even if Thonotheva was there. That grenade didn't come from him.

    Who threw the grenade?

    The police. The police threw the grenade.

    And what happened when the grenade went off?

    It burned a baby's face.

    So if the police are reading this, what can we gleam from this. Let's piece the events together since apparently they can't figure it out.

    So the police threw a grenade, that grenade went off next to a baby, and burned his face. So we can see that Thonotheva did not throw the grenade, as he wasn't even home at the time.

    The police burned the baby's face.

    Maybe they thought there weren't children. But they would have to admit to not paying any f**king attention to their environment. Why would they do that?

    Because they would have to be calm. They went in there with bloodlust, they were daydreaming of taking Thonotheva down and being heroes.

    Instead, they hurt a child. Their actions f**ked up a child's face, and that child may die because of them.

  • AlbedoAtoned||

    I want to believe that it was that instead of them just saying "there's a kid, who cares." I want to believe that it was a big f**king mistake and that they truly regret what happened to the child and are just making excuses because they can't handle the guilt. Whatever the case, they royally messed up and should be bending over backwards to make amends, starting by losing their jobs. And if they were truly regretting their actions, they would submit themselves to the same law they apply to everybody else.

    Deferring to the informant is a poor excuse also. The informant may have blood on their hands. But the informant also didn't burn a child's face.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    In order to maintain the dogmatic moral superiority of the state all fiendish actions engaged in by the state can never be traced back to ineptitude, negligence, or ignorance. To take responsibility and call for dramatic reversals would be akin to erasing the facade of faith billions hold with any number of popular deities. Literally, modern states represent orthodox universal moralities on par with any powerful religion that handcuffs the intelligence of its adherents.

    The state has their many Satans and in this case it is the drug-dealing rascals.

  • pronomian||

    I fired off an email with the picture of the baby in intensive care to the chief letting him know we now know what they mean on their website by "Putting Children First." If anyone else wished to show their "support" in what they did here's his email:

    jterrell@habershamga.com

  • John C. Randolph||

    Terrell says Thonetheva is to blame for Bou Bou's injuries

    Terrell is a delusional piece of shit.

    -jcr

  • Jorono||

    I fucked a cop's wife last night. Best feeling in the world.

  • croaker||

    A better feeling is to fuck a cop. In the ass. With a splintered pine dildo covered in Tiger Balm. Then cut off his ball and let him bleed out.

  • Dread Pirate Roberts||

    A wannabe terrorist tries to put explosives in his shoe and now we all have to take off our shoes before boarding a plane. When a psycho goes on a murdering rampage with a gun, we hear shouting that we must tighten gun control. But when drug warrior cops kill or main yet another innocent person... it's just business as usual.

  • Whahappan?||

    I don't think the cops asked the CI about the presence of children. If he really was in the house a couple of days before the raid, how could he fail to notice the evidence of four kids? Maybe he lied about even being there, maybe he dealt with the nephew in the past, and just needed to finger somebody and didn't realize he didn't live there anymore, who knows, but regardless, the cops were unbelievably negligent in the run-op to the raid.

  • Brendan||

    How often do we read about drug dealers in this country tossing explosives into occupied rooms, severely burning babies, 12 year olds, innocent adults, etc.? Next to never.

    It's not much of a stretch to say that a room full of meth dealers is a safer place to be than a room full of SWAT officers.

    To find that, we have to look South of the border and see how little the members of the cartels in Mexico care about innocent people's safety or lives.

  • XM||

    Wanis owned an AK-47. He was a threat of some sort.

    You can say the cops should have done a better job checking the place out, but they had proper evidence and warrant to raid the place. The police felt something block the front, so they threw in a flash bang. It was an accident.

    Dealing meth is illegal, meaning whether the transaction was voluntary or not is a moot point. I can't support legalization of ALL drugs AND individuals selling them without zero oversight. I feel the same way about immigration.

    If this raid went smoothly and the dealer was found to do business with the cartel, would you connect this to the "Drug war"? Not all drug raids end in this kind of tragedy. Only a small amount of people are sent to prison JUST for owning drugs. I see dopers in parks not a few blocks away from a preschool. It seems like libertarians react to drug busts gone wrong the same way conservatives do when an illegal murders someone. "It's the drug wars!" "We have to secure the borders!"

    I know you guys hate Dunphy, but I find his criticism of the police more informed and nuanced -

    http://pjmedia.com/blog/swat-t.....n-avoided/

  • Tabasco||

    He owns an AK-47, so let's meet him on his own turf with full access to his own weapon(s).

    A party with every incentive to lie and no incentive to tell the truth told us there was no child there, so that means there isn't one. Anyway, we have a warrant, so we have a blank check to do whatever.

    The suspect may have meth, so let's use military-grade weapons that could set off a meth lab and turn the whole house into a smoldering crater, because drugs are dangerous.

    Only a few innocent people get maimed and murdered, and only a little bit of property gets destroyed, so sending SWAT teams after users and low-level distributors is perfectly okay, because if you don't the terraists [sic] have won.

    A very minor malum prohibitum crime was alleged to have been committed, therefore overwhelming, undirected, and irresponsible force is totally justified, and it is the fault of the alleged (but presumed guilty) lawbreaker, wherever on Earth he may be. If we say we're all broken up over it and squeeze out some tears, but investigate ourselves and find out within 48 hours that policy was followed, but it will never happen again, but we'd do it exactly the same way if given the chance to do it again, but it doesn't particularly matter because we won't be held criminally liable and can't be held civilly liable, it's all okay. We all went home after the end of the shift, so that's what really matters, right?

    Fuck Dunphy, and fuck you.

  • Lost Sheep to Shepherd||

    This is the same department that got sued and lost a few years ago for falsely arresting female drivers so they could take them to the jail and strip search them. No lie. I live here and these guys are pure scum.

  • Mike Parent||

    Where is the media outrage? If a kid eats MJ candy it's big news.

  • Paul Pot||

    Yes, there is something truly wrong with the media over this event.
    They have seen fit to acclomplice themselves to the act by ignoring it and allowing the police to get away with it.

  • Dan Clore||

    Even rudimentary surveillance should have discovered signs of children, who according to the Phonesavanhs' lawyer played with their father in the front yard every day. Alecia Phonesavanh told ABC News there were "family stickers" on the minivan parked "right near the door they kicked in," which contained four child seats, and "my son's old playpen was right outside because we were getting ready to leave" for Wisconsin. Anyone who entered the house would have seen toys and children's clothes.

    *****

    That is especially interesting, because a story about this on network news had Terrell claiming that there were no toys or other items visible that would indicate the presence of children.

  • Paul Pot||

    Police have declared war on non-violent people.
    Without warning they make violent assaults on citizens as in a state of war.
    There is no justification for violent action in non-violent circumstances and any excuse for doing so is no more than a pathetic excuse.
    This is a crime against humanity.

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