Parents of wounded infant due to police abuse are burdened with more than $1 million in medical bills.
If you remember, the police abused the baby by throwing a flash grenade into the house. A baby was sleeping in the living room and the grenade landed in his bed with him.
And now we have an update from ABC News: “Family of Toddler Injured by SWAT ‘Grenade’ Faces $1M in Medical Bills.”
Alecia and Bounkham Phonesavanh never imagined their family would be at the center of a controversy over the militarization of police. But that’s exactly where they found themselves when their toddler was seriously injured by a SWAT team, also leaving them with a $1 million medical bill they have no hope of paying.
“They messed up,” Alecia Phonesavanh told ABC News’ “20/20.” “They had a faulty search warrant. They raided the wrong house.”
Since the incident, the toddler has undergone surgeries to repair his face and torso. The Phonesavanh family says they are facing close to $1 million in debt from hospital costs. Habersham County officials will not pay the medical bills, citing a “gratuity” law in Georgia that prohibits them from compensating the family.
But the Phonesavanh’s attorney, Mawuli Davis, believes the SWAT team’s actions during and after the raid make it accountable.
“The child was taken into their custody,” says Davis. “Taken from his family, as a result of an injury that was caused by the [sheriff’s department]. It would be our position that they should have to pay, and it is far from a gratuity.”
Under the state’s law, the county government has sovereign immunity from negligence claims against it, and thus the payment would be an illegal “gratuity” to the family.
As the holidays approach, the Phonesavanh family is mired in debt with medical bills they have no hope of paying. “Before this we didn’t owe anybody anything,” says Alecia Phonesavanh. “And now after all this, they have completely financially crippled us.”
Who is responsible for Bou Bou Phonesavanh’s injuries may still be a question for the courts to decide. The Phonesavanh family still has the option to file a civil lawsuit. And a federal investigation is now underway by the office of Sally Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
“As a parent, I can’t imagine the horrible nightmare that this family is enduring,” Yates said in a statement to ABC News. “Now that the state grand jury has declined to return an indictment, we are reviewing the matter and conducting our own investigation.”
If you consider how much debt there is in this country right now, the fact that the Phonesavanh’s were debt free says a great deal about their character. But now that has ended, thanks to a police raid that should never have happened and also should never have blindly used disfiguring weapons.
I hope the family wins big in a civil suit.