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Grenades in Cribs, Hurt Kids: Acceptable Risks in America’s War on Drugs?

A child was asleep in his crib early Sunday morning when a stun grenade launched by a SWAT team landed in his crib.

19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh is now in a medically induced coma in the burn unit of a Georgia hospital and has burns over much of his little body.

“I hope he’s not going to remember this. I know his sisters, his mommy and his daddy will never forget this,” the boy’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, said. “Our kids have been through enough this year. This is just more trauma that they didn’t need, and I just wish there was something better I could do to make it better for him. Wrong place, wrong time. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

The Phonosavanh family was staying with family in the Atlanta after their own home in Wisconsin burnt down recently and had nothing to do with the alleged crime that prompted the raid.

The toddler’s mom said the raid happened in the middle of the night and was targeted at a 30-year-old occupant of the home, who was suspected of drug charges.

“Everyone’s sleeping. There’s a loud bang and a bright light,” Phonosavanh 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.”

Now the little boy who was simply asleep in his bed is in critical condition, his face ripped open and his body burnt by the grenade lobbed to subdue the household.

Unfortunately, the latest child casualty of America’s war on drugs is not unique. In 2008, Lima, Ohio SWAT members were serving a drug warrant on a home when they shot and killed a young mother and seriously injured an infant in her arms.

Like the Atlanta case, the police used excessive, para-military force to enter the home, with terrible results.

According to the CATO Institute, this use of extreme, military-style violence has seen a dramatic rise as Americans try desperately to fight off drugs during the last decades. Yet, they are not only unnecessary in many cases, but flat out dangerous in most.

“These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors,” the Institute said. “And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.”

One community activist points out as long as SWAT teams are allowed to use excessive force to burst in peoples homes with increasing frequency, children remain at risk. “This time it was someone else’s child,” she said. “Next time it could be your child, your grandchild.”




Photo Credit: Screenshot WSB-TV

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.