Posted: 5:31 pm Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

A burned toddler revives a rare ‘no-knock’ alliance 

By Jim Galloway

It doesn’t matter whether you credit God or Charles Darwin. The looks that babies give us are designed to bring out our most protective instincts.

And so the image of 19-month-old Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, with his face burned away by a flash-bang police grenade hurled into his playpen, has done more than wring a few hearts.

In little more than a week, the injured toddler has sparked a rare alliance of Georgia’s disparate political factions: rural Republicans and urban blacks, tea partyers and liberal Democrats — all out to rein in the use of “no-knock” search warrants.

The stun grenade that landed on Bou Bou’s pillow was tossed during a 3 a.m. raid into a home in Cornelia, in rural northeast Georgia. Habersham County deputies and members of the Cornelia Police Department said they were surprised by the fact that four children — Bou Bou and his three sisters — were in the house at the time.

habershambaby2

Bou Bou Phonesavanh, who turns 2 years old in October, was critically injured while asleep at a relative s home early Wednesday. (Family photo)

We’re told that a confidential informant had purchased drugs at the house the day before, but the raid turned up no drugs or guns. The target of the raid was not there. He was arrested later — and only charged with drug possession, not sales.

The GBI is now investigating whether the North Georgia narcotics officers violated any law when executing a warrant that allowed them to enter the premises, by force, without first announcing themselves. But here’s the thing: In the whole of the Georgia Code, there isn’t a single sentence that governs when, or under what circumstances, no-knock warrants can be issued.

The judges who sign them are guided by case law and their own inclinations.

Back in 2007, a bipartisan team of lawmakers, led by state Sens. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, and Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, tried to write into law the rules for no-knock warrants. The effort was spurred by a 2006 police raid of a southwest Atlanta home that left a 92-year-old woman dead.

The no-knock measure easily passed the Senate but died in the House — opposed by many of the state’s sheriffs and prosecutors.

Seven years later, Bou Bou’s pain is bringing the band back together. “It looks like that issue needs to be revisited,” Mullis, the Republican, said this week.

Fort, the Democrat, is already neck-deep in protests over the Habersham County raid. Neither Fort nor Mullis are out to ban no-knock warrants outright, but they want restrictions spelled out.

“The no-knock warrant is becoming a standard, when it should be an exception. When you couple a no-knock warrant with these military-grade weapons, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Fort said.

Luck may be on their side this time. In political terms, the pivotal difference between 2007 and 2014 is the presence of the tea party — which has provided the Fourth Amendment with a fresh and influential fan base.

One measure: A protest at the Habersham County courthouse scheduled for this Saturday is the work of a coalition of libertarian and tea party activists. But an organizer, James Bell, reports that one group especially helpful in getting the word out about the gathering has been the NAACP in Clayton County, where a pregnant woman was injured by a flash-bang grenade during a 2010 police raid.

There’s one more sign that legislation to bring no-knock warrants under tighter control will be a topic of the 2015 General Assembly. He is state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville.

Tanner, who lives two counties over from Habersham, is no Monday morning quarterback. He says he has been looking into the topic for more than a year.

For 18 years, Tanner was a Dawson County sheriff’s deputy. Much of that time was spent on a drug task force. He’s executed more than 100 search warrants, including “several dozen” of the no-knock variety.

“I understand what it’s like to go through a door and not know what’s on the other side,” he said. ”I do think there are ways to tighten the process down to ensure that it’s done properly and safely — as safe as you possibly can.”

Tanner says he is involved in “treetop-level” discussions with Georgia sheriffs and prosecutors, and he expects to produce a first draft of legislation within two or three months.

The Dawsonville lawmaker is wondering whether police agencies should be required to have written policies on the service of no-knock warrants. And whether supervisors should be required to be on the scene.

”I also think maybe we need to look at the time of day when they’re allowed to be executed,” Tanner said. Warrants allowing no-knock entry into homes during the dark of night could require the highest degree of sworn testimony before a judge signs on.

Again, Tanner insists that his is no knee-jerk reaction to what happened in Habersham County. So what is his motivation? I asked.

“I know it’s becoming more and more of a concern, not just in Georgia but across the country. I think it’s important that law enforcement and people who understand this area step up and take the lead,” he said. “So that we don’t ultimately lose a tool that’s in our toolbox.”

Let me add my own spin: A parade in Bou Bou’s honor is highly likely when the Legislature convenes in Atlanta next January. If it cannot be stopped, perhaps it would be better for Georgia prosecutors and sheriffs to be seen leading it.

62 comments
fed up
fed up

the police these days are too scared to follow protocol (of any kind) they continue to violate our civil liberties and are allowed to kill anything if they are scared of it (via impunity). 


the biggest problem i see is that the communities in which these things happen, nobody is fighting back... the sheriffs department is PUBLICLY APPOINTED! which means the community has some control over what actually goes on... if you dont do anything when swat kills innocent people just because THEY are scared, then your community has a major problem that only the local community can control... im in portland, i cant do squat for the community of habersham county.


also want to note, there are lots of illegal drug activity in my 'hood' but the sheriffs department here still conduct themselves appropriately (for the mostpart). habersham county has a real problem, and its not the "drugs"....

Yougothatright
Yougothatright

the writer of this article starts out with a bone head observation whether "God or Charles Darwin".Another huge blunder was crediting naacp clayton county getting the "word" out.


The protest was very small and there were no visible sign of a clayton county influence.  


This situation of course will be investigated and not swept under the rug.  The protesters had a right to be there and were giving the respect and time to have there "voice."


This is very important.  The people's right to free speech has been drastically stomped upon by the current administration in Washington, D.C.



StephenBroadhead
StephenBroadhead

I woke up early one morning back in March to loud banging at the front door. Because I was at my girlfriend's house I did not have my personal firearm to defend myself (turned out that was a good thing). So I just began shouting at the person at the door, "get the f*** out of here!", "I'm going to call the cops!!!". After about 30 seconds of this terrifying event, the kicking/banging stops and I'm alerted that the guy trying to kick in my door was a cop, and that they suspected a kid they were chasing had come into our apartment. When I told him that hadn't happened the cop just ran off, no sorry, no information as to what was going on (I understand he was in pursuit). When we called 911 to receive clarification there was no assistance. The next day we looked at the damage to the door, it was not significant but noticeable - we tried to find out how to file a complaint (again very little assistance). After persisting we were finally able to get a few officers to come out and assess the damage, to which they determined they acted in accordance with the law. Its just so frustrating and terrifying that these cops can do what they want it seems like. What if I had acted in self-defense and shot through the door all "Oscar Pistorious" style?!?!? Would I be afforded the same protection? And this all stemmed from an officer literally trying to kick my door down, not announcing his presence beforehand. It makes me sick. 

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

This is a simple case of poorly trained and poorly supervised amature law enforcement officers misusing their positions thinking they were going to score a big drug hall along with forfeiture items. They did no different than the.officers in Atlanta who shot the 92 year old lady to death then tried to cover it up. This same organization shot a innocent guy to death 3 years ago then claimed he was doing drugs when in fact he was a minister trying to help a drug addict. This is what you get with no knock warrants and no direct accountability. The GBI investigation only looks at CRINIMAL intent not stupidity and incompetent behavior just like the Deputy in Bartow County who shot the 17 year old kid claiming he had a gun in his hand when what he had was a Wi game controller. In the end the taxpayer pays for this incompetence

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

"It would be one of those things that I would be open to if there is sufficient evidence to indicate that it needs to be revisited and more appropriate standards and requirements put in place," Deal said, adding he would want to make sure the law enforcement community was involved in any discussion on the issue" ~~~~~So a trail of innocent dead bodies and a burned up baby is still not enouth evidence????  I have said it before and I will say it again, the right to life for republicans stops in the delivery room.

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

Hillary Clinton said that we need the war on drugs to serve as an alternative illegal activity for kidnapping and human trafficking.  This is how far out of their minds our politicians have gone.

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

Ending the drug war will get rid of 99% of the problem.  The drug war has put the US on the fast track to certain destruction.  It has given the police carte blanche to do virtually anything they want to do and get away with it.


Charles50
Charles50

What irritates me the most about this Habersham Sheriff Dept. is their initial response that no further investigation was needed.  Uh, that's what got you into this problem in the first place.  

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

You do not police a police department by relying on a snitch and not doing any investigative work prior to throwing a grenade into a house.  This is disgusting and I hope the picture of this baby's face haunts the state of Georgia, its law enforement officials and prosecutors for the rest of their days.  Shame on you.

GaBlue
GaBlue

Know WHY we live in G** D*** POLICE STATE? 


Because the only amendment that gets any traction any more is the Second. "Ooooo! Oooooo! We need our GUNS because we're eskeeered to go outside without enough automatic fire power to take out a small town! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeese don't let them take my cold steel away! Waaaah Waaaahhhh Waaaahhhhhhh!"


Who's standing up for the REST of the amendments in the Bill of Rights? NOBODY. They're chipped away year after year by local and state authorities, validated by fascist judges, and where are the gun nuts? Home stroking their precious barells all shiny clean. Yuck.

The-Centrist
The-Centrist

Thank you for adding the photo. 

Very difficult to look at, but anyone who supports this needs to know the results.

Of course even your hardened conservative readers seem appalled at this one.

MoFaux
MoFaux

It sounds like some night vision goggles would be useful before tossing a grenade into someone's house.  They are much less expensive than the impending settlement is going to be.

Joeleejohnson
Joeleejohnson

Before current war on drugs we simply waged a war on crime. A primary weapon in our war on crime was called hard labor. Convicts were assigned to work camps throughout Georgia. At these camps the convicted person was convinced, by hard work, that violating the laws of Georgia is not such a good idea.

Would that we could simply hit the 'return' key, (as I just did) the no knock warrants and flash-bang grenades of this century could be relegated to the dustbin of Georgia history.

NWGAL
NWGAL

It doesn't take much imagination to foresee the disaster in mixing police no knock searches with stand your ground.

CuriousPrime
CuriousPrime

After Sandy Hook, I gave up thinking sensible legislation could be passed in this political climate.

Veritasthorn
Veritasthorn

Radley Balko's 2013 book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces is absolutely recommended reading. It discusses the history of policing in general before going into the last 50 yrs of cops becoming ever more militarized, and includes discussions of both the Kathryn Johnston and Rev Jonathan Ayers massacres. For those who don't know, Ayers was executed 5 yrs ago by agents of the same agencies involved in this travesty. For the "crime" of helping a homeless member of his church. In the street. In broad daylight. His widow got a $2 million settlement from these agencies and the counties that employ them not 4 months ago. http://smile.amazon.com/dp/B00B3M3UFQ

The-Centrist
The-Centrist

Another casualty of America's insane and hugely expensive war on drugs.

dreluv
dreluv

My prayers goes out to Bou Bou and family..I hope they sue the H out of Habersham County and sheriff dept..No one should have go through this tragedy..I wonder what Nathan Deal have to say about this no knock law.

DS
DS

I'm a big supporter of police officers, and I appreciate the difficult situations they have to deal with, but this is too much.

Judges and police need to use better judgment in authorizing the use of these tactics. So a confidential informant purchased drugs at the house the day before---so what? Kicking down doors and throwing grenades in the house is excessive. Why not just have the Air Force drop a bomb on the place?

Law enforcement officials need  to have a better sense of proportionality in their choice of tactics.

Bearhand
Bearhand

Do not forget this is the same Task Force that shot and killed the young preacher Jonathan Ayers in Toccoa Georgia in 2009 and then lied and tried to cover it up. This is the same county back in 2002 that lost a lawsuit to 16 people who sued because the prior sheriff forced them to undergo invasive full body cavity searches because they stood up for their rights as citizens. A stronger question should be asked; WHY DO RURAL COUNTIES BELIEVE THEY NEED SWAT TEAMS. The county sheriff departments already out-number, are better trained, and outgun everyone they face. Why do we need rural county sheriffs having the type and number of high-tech weapons and armor that they are carrying? It is a recipe for continued disaster and it is time they are reined in and the judges are held accounted for allowing the no-knock warrant to become common place in Georgia. Judge Jimmy Butterworth, were you too damn tired at Midnight on Wednesday to do more than just rubber-stamp Joey Terrell's request? Jimmy, couldn't you have asked a few pertinent questions, such as, did any police officer put their eyes on the home?

Veritasthorn
Veritasthorn

@Charles50 I finally realized what happened: They were investigating someone 5 yrs ago and slaughtered Rev Jonathan Ayers as part of that investigation. Earlier this year, they were forced to pay $2 million over that fiasco. So they decided to stop doing investigations. I hope they have to pay $20 million over this fiasco.

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

@Charles50  As long at the drug war continues, no further investigation is needed.  Get rid of the problem.

Veritasthorn
Veritasthorn

@GaBlue Actually, the Libertarians do a pretty good job of standing for ALL of them.

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

@GaBlue  Don't blame the Second Amendment for the lack of respect for the other Amendments.

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

@MoFaux  Ending the drug war would be useful.  The last thing you want to do is militarize the police even more.

GuyOnThisSite
GuyOnThisSite

@MoFaux Because night vision goggles would have made them be able to see through walls and a door?

Derwin0
Derwin0

@MoFaux Problem is, they didn't even do a cursory glance, they pounded the door in and tossed it right away.  Violations of 2 standard procedures (look first, and roll incendiary distraction devices).

Derwin0
Derwin0

@NWGAL People were allowed to have guns in their own homes and use them for self-defense long before stand your ground came around.  Two very different things.

The-Centrist
The-Centrist

Sure, and as Buckhead says below, I'd be scared too if I was going into a home where I knew there could be knucleheads like the 'patriots' who insist on packing their pop guns into Chipotle.

BuckheadBoy
BuckheadBoy

@Veritasthorn I wonder if the rise of the warrior cop isn't but another adverse consequence of the rise of the cult of guns everywhere. When civil society becomes more lethal, isn't it to be expected that those who tend it will adjust to that greater lethality in ways and at times further inimical to tranquility?  

Andy123
Andy123

@Bearhand 

Because its only the same Task Force in name.  It's not the same people whatsoever. 


Why do rural counties needs SWAT teams?  Are you really that dense? 

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@JoseGonzales Thanks for sharing but my post is not intended to promote crack or meth babies created by ruthless drug dealers.  To me a dirty cop and a souless drug dealer both are cut from the same clothe.  There is a special place in hell reserved for both.

GaBlue
GaBlue

@JoseGonzales 


I DO blame the hypocrites who so vocally defend the Second, but can't be bothered to stand up for the First or the Fourth. Buncha cowards.

MoFaux
MoFaux

@JoseGonzales @MoFaux I agree regarding the drug war, but I don't see how having night vision goggles is harmful in any way.  That is a tool that can help the police say not only their own lives, but innocents like this poor child.  Legalizing pot is a no-brainer.

MoFaux
MoFaux

@GuyOnThisSite @MoFaux Ever heard of a window?  It was also stated that child seats were in a car parked in the driveway, if memory serves.  Also, smart guy, when you open a door to throw a grenade, you should LOOK before throwing it.  Why don't you try using your brain a little bit?

MoFaux
MoFaux

@Derwin0 @MoFaux Right, so let's hope the justified bipartisan fury actually goes somewhere this time.  My point stands.  It would have been very useful to have someone with night vision goggles peer into the vehicles to check for child seats, or dare I say, through the windows of the house?

GuyOnThisSite
GuyOnThisSite

@Derwin0 @NWGAL Yeah, and when someone dressed in all black breaks into your home in the middle of the night on a no-knock raid and you shoot them thinking they are a criminal, you go to jail for murder (and worse since it was a cop).


Somehow they expect you to be able to tell the difference between a criminal dressed in black banging down your door and yelling, "We're the police!" and an actual cop doing the same thing.

Veritasthorn
Veritasthorn

@BuckheadBoy anti-gun much? No, the rise of the warrior cop is actually tied much more closely to the War on Drugs and the War on Terror and Federal programs in support of those "wars" that give DOD materials to local cops. Everything from MREs to tanks - including, possibly, the very flashbang used in this raid. On guns, there were actually MORE guns on the streets as a percentage of the population long ago. Cops are only using guns as an excuse for their own cowardice.

DontTread
DontTread

@Andy123 @Bearhand Here's another case of liberals injecting themselves as the sole authority on what others do and do not "need".


Assuming the drug dealer in question actually had AK-47s in his possession at the time the undercover buy was made (as has been reported by the media), flash-bangs are tactically the most effective way to gain entry without unnecessarily risking the lives of police officers.


That being said, some review and guideline revisions may be necessary.  Those guidelines should not prohibit the use of flash-bangs and other tactical devices just because children are present - the criminals will just use children as human shields.

Bearhand
Bearhand

@Andy123 @Bearhand It's still run by Joey Terrell. Are you so dense that you can't understand that? And rural counties don't need SWAT type forces. Why do you need grenades to serve a warrant? You don't.

Veritasthorn
Veritasthorn

@StraightNoChaser a drug dealer is simply trying to make a buck. He is not inherently violent. Cops, particularly former members of the military who later become cops, *are* inherently violent and seek only to rough people up and/ or murder them if they think they can get away with it.

Veritasthorn
Veritasthorn

@MoFaux @JoseGonzales Cops need LESS military grade equipment, not more. Or civilians need more. Either way works. Cops should not be armed any better than civilians is the overall point.

Veritasthorn
Veritasthorn

@DontTread @Andy123 @Bearhand If police are so cowardly that they need grenades and don't mind throwing said grenades on babies, perhaps they should find another line of work. The day has LONG since come of needing to restrain these monsters. They murder us and not only get away with it, they get REWARDED for it.

In addition to banning the use of flashbangs, let us also mandate that any time a cop fires his weapon before being fired upon, he is stripped of his ability to be a cop for 5 years and can never again work for the organization he was working for when he fired his gun. If he ever has a second offense, he is never allowed to be a cop again, PERIOD. For either offense, any penalty that would be assessed against a non-cop for a similar crime should also be assessed against the cop.


Maybe then they'll start thinking twice about MURDERING US.

Charles50
Charles50

@DontTread @Andy123 @Bearhand You don't miss an opportunity to use the L word do you.  I think you'll find the outcry on this coming from both sides.


Review of guidelines?   You're saying that the police should simply take the word of a CI about what's going on in a house without further investigation? That calls for a review?  It's not already done?  Second, the guy wasn't at the house.  Did he have a vehicle?  Was it at the house at the time?  If a buy happened the day before unless you can see that the person "lives" there on a regular basis, then why enter that residence?  Why couldn't they just pick the guy up on his way to or from somewhere or catch him coming out of the house--lazy, that's why.

Derwin0
Derwin0

@Bearhand You'd be surprised.  Rural counties still have armed drug criminals.


As it is, this wasn't a dedicated SWAT team, just officers that are part of that task forces as part of their regular duties.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@Veritasthorn Excuse me sir but my post is not to point out the violence of a drug dealer but to point out the destruction that drugs leave behind when introduced into a babies system by a drug addicted pregnant mother.  If there is no supply then there would not be no demand.  So the buck the drug dealer is making comes at a high price as well.  Baby Bou Bou could have been born paralyzed from crack, meth and herion just as he is now from this cops actions so to me the drug dealer is just as bad as a cop and no the war on drugs should not stop. 

MoFaux
MoFaux

@Veritasthorn @MoFaux @JoseGonzales Oh, I get it.  You're one of those people stuck in the 19th century, back when it was actually feasible to overcome a tyrannical gov't.  I guess you think citizens should also be able to erect ICBMs in their backyard and drive around in tanks.  Wow.

MoFaux
MoFaux

@StraightNoChaser What you don't understand is that demand does NOT depend on supply, and the notion that you can get rid of the supply is absurd and impossible.  That is precisely why we have a black market.  Take away all guns, and there will suddenly be a black market for all the gun nuts.  Take away all of the "bad" drugs, and they will be replaced with "good" drugs like huffing gasoline or your medicine cabinet.  People want to get high, whether you like it or not, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.  What we CAN do, is spend more of our resources on rehabilitation and education, instead of a silly "drug war" that has done nothing but flush money down the toilet and pack our jails with too many nonviolent people.  Drug dealers are not the main problem, our failed drug war is.  Legalize pot and get rid of the harmful fake pot out there, and that would save lives.  Provide an easier way for those drug-addicted mothers to get the help they need without stigmatizing (or jailing) them.  This stupid drug war is longest war the US has waged, and the results have not been good.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@MoFaux  Drug dealers bring the drugs to the street and I am not talking about weed I do believe I outlined just a few of the drugs I am refering to.  I beg to differ with you definition of non violent.  When someone purposely gives another individual something that can result in bodily injury or death then that is tantamount to a violent crime.  Just because a gun or knife was not used in commiting the crime does not mean a violent crime was not committed.  If I poison your food I committed a violent crime against you, the same is true with selling another person a dangerous drug to make a buck. How much violent crime was committed to get  that nonviolent bag of weed to the street you are talking about?   to I work in healthcare so I see first hand the result of unborn children ingesting drugs that were sold to them by a drug dealer trying to make a buck.  It's not a pretty picture.  Have a nice day.