A Militarized SWAT team in Habersham County Georgia used a flash-bang grenade in the conduct of a no-knock nighttime raid just before 3 am on Wednesday morning.
The grenade landed in a playpen in which a one-year-old child was sleeping, seriously injuring the child and exploding with enough force to blow out the side of the playpen.
The SWAT team, composed of as many as seven officers from the Habersham County Sheriff’s Dept and the Cornelia Police Dept, were serving an arrest warrant on a suspected drug dealer, Wanis Thonetheva. They were issued a “no-knock warrant” based upon a previous weapons charge against the suspect.
Officers report that when they hit the door of the residence with a battering ram, they encountered resistance as if something was blocking it, so they threw in a grenade.
Once inside the house, they determined that it was the portable playpen which had been blocking their forced entry and that the grenade had landed inside, next to the pillow of the 19-month-old sleeping child.
The mother says the child is presently in an induced coma at a local hospital, with burns and injuries to his face. He also is said to have a big cut on his chest.
The target of the raid, Thonetheva, was not in the home at the time of the assault, but the parents of the injured child as well as three other children and the suspect’s mother were.
The injured child’s family had moved into the Cornelia residence as temporary guests after their home in Wisconsin burned to the ground.
The parents say they were aware that drug activity was going on in the home at times, and kept the children away when it was going on.
The Assistant District Attorney, J. Edward Staples, said that Thonetheva, who was arrested shortly after the raid at another residence, could be charge in connection with the child’s injuries.
While Thonetheva has an extensive police record and is involved in a pending legal action, this particular raid turned up only a residue of drugs and no illegal weapons.
No officers have been suspended, and a review is being conducted.
Sheriff Joey Terrell said, that the raid would have been conducted differently if they had known of children inside. They would not have used the flash bang grenade.
Maybe in the future, in the course of gathering info from their confidential informant, they might want to ask if there are any children in the house, if they noticed any toys, diapers, bottles in the sink, that type of stuff. That could be valuable info, even if they were only planning on using shotguns and automatic weapons. Maybe they could make it official policy to assume their are children in the home, just to err on the side of common sense.
Some would question whether fighting an unwinnable, never ending war on drugs is worth the loss of our Fourth Amendment protections.