Alecia and Bounkham Phonesavanh are facing $1 million in medical bills after a botched SWAT team operation left their 18-month-old child ‘Bou Bou’ critically injured. The team entered the house with a ‘no knock’ permit looking for Bounkham’s nephew Wanis Thonetheva, who was not at the residence.
After their house in Wisconsin burned down, the Phonesavanh family was forced to move in with Bounkham’s sister in Georgia. There, the six family members lived together in a garage converted in to a single bedroom.
On May 28 the family woke when a SWAT team from the Habersham County Sherriff’s Office forcefully entered the garage with a ‘no knock’ permit, using a ‘flash-bang’ grenade as a diversion. The grenade landed near Bou Bou.
According to Alecia, a deputy picked up the crying baby and carried him out of the house before either parent could see or hold him. Alecia said, “I asked if he got hurt. And they said, ‘No, your son is fine. He has not sustained any serious injury.’ They ended up telling us that he had lost a tooth.”
Dr. Walter Ingram treated Bou Bou at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, saying, “His chest wall had torn down to muscle and it tore his face down to bone, down to his teeth.”
Several members of the police force, including the drug informant and the man who signed the warrant, resigned within days of the intrusion. The drug task force was disbanded entirely four months later.
Bou Bou spent more than five weeks in a medically induced coma but has been released from the hospital. A Habersham County’s grand jury found that, "The drug investigation that led to these events was hurried, sloppy." However, they did not recommend criminal charges against those involved.
Bou Bou has had multiple surgeries to repair his damaged face and torso. Habersham County refuses to pay the bill, amounting to over $1 million, referencing a "gratuity" law. The Phonesavanh family has the option of filing a civil lawsuit.