I wrote earlier this year about the story of Baby “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, a toddler who was disfigured and permanently injured by a stun grenade that landed in his playpen during the execution of a “no-knock” raid on the house where he and his family were staying. In the end, police had raided the wrong house, seeking a suspected drug dealer later arrested without violence at his actual place of residence. Bou Bou Phonesavanh was critically burned by the flashbang grenade and spent weeks in a medically induced coma; he continues to need surgeries and other medical care.
Earlier in the year, I wrote about the bizarre defense filed by police in response to a lawsuit brought on behalf of Baby Bou Bou, wherein police argue that the toddler was the one at fault for his disfigurement.
Yet, the fault actually seems to rest with police; and specifically, with the Narcotics Criminal Investigation and Suppression Team agent — Nikki Autry — whose job is was to build a case against suspected drug dealer Wanis Thometheva. Autry is accused of writing false or unverified information — such as that there was frequent drug-related traffic at the Phonesavanh family’s temporary residence — into the warrant application that ultimately lead to the “no knock” raid. Lawyers for the Phonesavanh family say that without these false statements, there would not have been sufficient probable cause for a raid, and Bou Bou would not have been injured as a result. They also confirm that Autry faces four federal civil rights charges.
Without her false statements, there was no probably cause to search the premises for drugs or to make arrests.
In this case, the consequences of the unlawful search were tragic.
Autry was removed from service earlier in the year. The charges against her include providing false information in a search warrant affidavit, providing false information in an arrest warrant, and violating the civil rights of the Phonesavanh family.
It remains unclear how or why Autry offered allegedly false or unverifiable information in the warrant application. No other officers currently face any criminal charges.
Act Now! If you are outraged by this story — and you really should be — here’s how you can get involved. The JusticeForBabyBouBou.com website lists several approved fundraisers for Bou Bou Phonesavanh and a separate Crowdrise fundraiser has also been set-up to offset medical expenses.
You can also sign the following Change.org petition urging Habersham County to follow through in the payment of the settlement to the family.
If you would like to contact the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office directly, you can do so here:
Sheriff Joey Terrell
1000 Detention Drive
Clarkesville, GA 30523
You can also share this post and tweet to #JusticeForBouBou.