U.S. Attorney meets with family of child hurt in drug raid - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

U.S. Attorney meets with family of child hurt in drug raid


A 19-month-old boy who was critically injured during a drug raid in Cornelia, GA, remains in a medically-induced coma and is too fragile to undergo surgery that could save his life, according to his family.

Bounkham Phonesavanh, called "Boo Boo" by his parents, was transferred from Grady Memorial Hospital to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, where doctors who specialize in treating children will perform the operation.

"It is horrific what has happened to him," said family attorney Mawuli Davis. "He is not in a position to have that surgery. That surgery has been delayed indefinitely until they strengthen his lungs."

In the meantime, Davis along with a state lawmaker, a pastor and a community activist/attorney, have asked U.S. Attorney Sally Yates to launch an independent investigation.

"The U.S. attorney responded to our letter and made it clear that she was very concerned about what had happened to Boo Boo last week. She is committed to looking into the situation," State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-District 39, said.

Davis said the time is now for federal investigators to act. He said each day that passes is a day that evidence from the incident isn't collected.

He showed us a picture of the scene and said, "If you look at this picture, you can see the pin from the grenade is still in the driveway, so there has been absolutely no collection of evidence, and that first and foremost is an issue."

Police said agents sent an informant to the home who successfully purchased methamphetamine from Wanis Thonetheva, a resident of the home and Phonesavanh's cousin, the day before the incident.

The informant told agents that there were a couple of men at the home standing "guard" outside the door leading to the finished garage area and the front door of the residence.

The informant was not sure whether these "guards" posted in the front of the residence were armed with weapons.

According to the child's mother, she and her family were staying at the residence temporarily and she was aware that her nephew, Thonetheva, and his brother were dealing drugs out of the house.

Agents said there were no children or dogs at the residence, according to all information able to be gathered at the time.

In the past, agents knew there were assault-type weapons at the home and Thonetheva has a criminal history which includes charges of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and several charges of carrying a concealed weapon.

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell said deputies used the flashbang because they couldn't get in a door blocked by Phonesavanh's playpen. The grenade landed in the playpen, going off inches from the 19-month-old's face. Davis said independent investigators discovered Terrell's statement was wrong.

"We have taken measurements where the playpen was at the time of the incident from the doorway, which was breached by this SWAT team. It measures six feet away from the door, so the notion that this playpen was pressed up against this door is an absolute lie," Davis said.

"This family has a sense of urgency that someone needs to secure the scene and collect evidence," said Fort.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Yates released a statement.

"As a parent, I can't imagine the horrible nightmare that this family is enduring. This is a terrible tragedy that must be fully investigated. Federal and state authorities are coordinating to get to the bottom of what happened," Yates said.

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