Sunday, June 1, 2014

Child abuse under color of law

I'm so angry right now I don't know whether it'll be possible for me to be dispassionate and objective as I write this post;  but it's got to be written.  I ask those of my readers with blogs of their own, or Facebook pages, or any other social media outlet, to please publicize this matter as well.

I accuse the Habersham County Sheriff's Office in Georgia, and all other agencies involved in this case, of child abuse under color of law.  Here are before and after pictures.  I've deliberately kept them very small because I don't want to show the extent of the infant's horrific injuries.  One news outlet said bluntly, "Channel 2 has decided not to share most of the photos because of the graphic nature of the child’s injuries".

Here's why I level the accusation..

Early Wednesday, a multijurisdictional SWAT team raided the home to serve a drug warrant. Deputies said they bought drugs from the house and came to the house to serve a no-knock warrant to find a man they said was known to have drugs and weapons.

Deputies opened the door and threw the flash grenade into the play pen of the 19-month-old boy.

Habersham County District Attorney Brian Rickman told Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh he will review everyone who entered the home and everyone who was inside the home during the raid. 

Friday, Phonesavanh said the outlook is grim for her little boy.

“The nurse explained it to me. His laceration on his chest is pretty deep, down to the muscle. They can’t close it up yet because all of the charring from the explosion,” Phonesavanh said.

“He still needs help breathing. He’ll need that help for a while. He has a big bruise on his lung from the impact. His lung is useless right now” Phonesavanh added.

. . .

The family showed Young photos of the burned play pen. The boy’s mother insists the play pen was not blocking the door as deputies reported. She also said it would have been obvious to police that her son and other children were inside.

“They can’t miss the kids. They said there were no toys, no nothing. There’s plenty of stuff,” Phonesavanh said.

There's more at the link.  See also these reports:

To my unspeakable outrage, Haversham County Sheriff Joey Terrell has tried to excuse the incident by claiming that his officers and others involved were merely doing their jobs.  An example of his attitude is this direct quote:  "Our team went by the book. Given the same scenario, we'll do the same thing again. I stand behind what our team did."


This incident encapsulates everything that's wrong with law enforcement in the United States today.  In the military such injuries were referred to as 'collateral damage'.  Armies do that.  Their very function is to break things and kill people.  THAT IS NOT THE FUNCTION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT - but too many law enforcement officers behave as if it is, and try to excuse it when it happens.  We call this 'the militarization of law enforcement'.  It's drawing concern from both the left of US politics (e.g. the ACLU), the center (e.g. this ABC News article) and the right (e.g. the Cato Institute).  Police sources seek to justify it (see, for example, this article), but what else would we expect from them?  The boys want their new toys, after all.

I speak as a retired Federal officer.  I swore a law enforcement oath of office myself, and had statutory powers of arrest.  All I can say is that Sheriff Terrell is extremely fortunate he doesn't live within striking distance of me, because he wouldn't be allowed to say any such thing in my presence.  I regard him with contempt, scorn and derision for even attempting to justify this sort of outrage.  He's identified himself as a jackbooted thug for even thinking such things, much less saying them.  Why he hasn't been physically slapped down (at the very least) by outraged members of his community, I just don't understand.  Why the officers who perpetrated this authority also have not been dealt with as severely as possible by that same community beggars the imagination.

Sheriff Terrell's mindset is, at its root, precisely the same as that I spoke about when discussing the mindset of those in authority in the Catholic Church concerning the clergy sex abuse crisis.  I discussed that mindset at considerable length in the first two sections of this article, so I won't repeat it here.  Suffice it to say that much of what I said there about bishops and their thought processes applies (obviously in a very different context) to law enforcement administrators and commanders as well.  They are blind to reality.

I believe Sheriff Terrell (and all officers who took part in this raid, and any other officer of any other agency who shares his defensive attitude over this incident) needs to hang up his badge RIGHT NOW and never put on law enforcement uniform again.  If he does, I believe the people of his community need to remove him from office by any means necessary.  If I were there, I'd not only join them - I'd help organize a community-wide drive to do so.

I swore an oath.  I have kept that oath.  Sheriff Terrell and his officers, by the admission contained in his own words, are in violation of that oath every day they hold office.  WHY HAVE THE PEOPLE OF HAVERSHAM COUNTY NOT DONE SOMETHING ABOUT IT?



Stuart Garfath, Sydney. said...

Is it possible that the images of these uniformed, State sanctioned THUGS can be posted on any and every internet media, so the world can see what such utter low-life individuals such as they look like.
Even way down here, in Australia, we want to see, to remember them.
Bloody Mongrels!.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we call them what they are? Para-Military Death squads. This IS NOT the first "incident" of an innocent being maimed or murdered by SWAT death squads and until this scum knows that membership on a SWAT team carries a mandatory death penalty , it will never end.--Ray

David said...

By the book?

I was a cop once upon a time, and I was on a SWAT team. Our book said that you paid attention to indicators that children may be present, and if those indicators existed, we were not to use pyrotechnics...PERIOD.

Did forswearing the use of pyro increase the risk to the officers on our team? Without a doubt. But we saw it as our jobs to go in harm's way...not an innocent child's.

If children lived there, and they made a drug buy there...someone had to have seen cribs, toys, etc. But they threw the bang anyway. No excuse.

Chris Mallory said...

This is the same crew that shot Jonathan Ayers, an unarmed pastor, a few years ago.

Captain Tightpants said...

As David said, for most teams "Child Protocols" would prevent deploying an LSD or flash-bang in the first place, much less inside the structure. This is either a case of lax protocols and oversight for the operation as a whole, or else lack of proper pre-raid intel. Either one is inexcusable. Given that I'm still actively involved in high-risk warrants on a regular basis, I can say that this certainly does NOT meet the "accepted standards" put out by the community.

juvat said...

"hang up his badge RIGHT NOW and never put on law enforcement uniform "
Sorry, Peter, got to disagree with you on this one. The District Attorney needs to indict each and every one of them. Bring them to trial and, if convicted, put them in a very different kind of uniform. The one worn by inmates.

Anonymous said...

This will raise your blood pressure even more.

Robert Fowler said...

I read that the SWAT team is receiving death threats. That just breaks my heart. The war on some drugs and no-knock warrants needs to stop. I think if a judge signs one, he/she should be the first one in the door. In their robes.

Robert Fowler said...

re-blogged at

Old NFO said...

Plus one on CT... Those procedures are usually written in BLOOD, this is another one to add to the collection... sadly... Thoughts and prayers for the child and the mother.

Borepatch said...


If I ever become independently wealthy, I shall set up a non-profit to go after these bastards and see them ( and their departments, and the counties that support them) penniless.

I expect that after 10 scorched earth "victories" we'll see a different attitude.

Rolf said...

Yes, that *should* happen. But remember Lon Horiuchi, from ruby Ridge? Janet Reno from Waco & the Koresh compound? The NBPP "patrolling" the Philly election precinct? This sort of activity is the proving ground for exactly the sort of people that the DoJ *wants* in uniform.
Three words: Attorney General Holder. Ergo, as much as we wish it might, nothing will happen.

Anonymous said...

When you say 'deliberate maiming', are you seriously suggesting that the SWATs planned to firebomb a child? Or is that just hyperbolic frustration?

The cops were clumsy, and probably shouldn't have used pyrotechnics IF they knew there were kids in the house, although it's hard to see how pyro put the kids at higher risk than potentially getting into a gunfight over the crib. Would you ban by policy all forcible entry to homes with kids in them, like a "no-chase" policy to protect bystanders? What's the solution here, beyond "I am angry that a little boy got hurt"?

Anonymous said...

This is much, much bigger than just Habersham County, it's endemic among "police" across the country.

It is apparent, from the justifications for these acts provided by police commanders everywhere, that Americans are at equal or greater risk from "police" than from criminals.

I'm not sure just how we achieve a peaceful solution to the "police" problem. Certainly elimination of any and all legal immunity for their actions is warranted, along with wholesale replacement of "police" personnel who condone such actions.

There may be "good police" who privately decry such Gestapo tactics, but as long as they support the agencies who commit them they should be just as strongly condemned as those engaged in the action.

Peter said...

@Anonymous at 1:12 AM: If policy permitted the use of 'distraction devices' (in this case, stun grenades) in situations where children might be present, and if the officer(s) concerned followed that policy, then yes - this was deliberate. There's no other word for it.

I'd also point out that the alleged drug dealer was not the child, and was not the child's mother. They were not the targets of the warrant. Why are so many police now trying to make excuses for the raid team, blaming the child's injuries on the alleged criminal rather than on their wrong-headed use of pyrotechnics? See, for example, this thread on a police board:

If I lived in the area where this went down, I'd be calling a public meeting, waving my retired Federal LE credentials to demonstrate my fitness to speak on the subject, and publicly calling for the officers involved to be fired, tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail. For a start. I'm ashamed to be thought of in the same LE breath as these clowns.

There is simply no excuse for this behavior. No search for evidence, no attempt to arrest a criminal, can ever justify exposing a baby to harm like this. If it happens accidentally, that's one thing. When it's the result of deliberate policy - policy that's led to innocent deaths before in the same area - then things have got to change. NOW.

Larry said...

I guess nobody has read where the mother and children were just staying there, that she knew that drugs (meth) was being dealt there, and that she kept her child in aback room when dealing was going on, in one interview she stated that she normally kept her childs stuff out of sight.

I can make no judgement on the cops in that I am not sure how much recon they did. It is abvious that they had dealt with the perp on more than one occasion and that the house was a known location. I can pass a hard judgement on the mother of the child. She should lose her parental rights asap, anyone who knowingly and willingly lets her child live in a house where meth is dealt and used, should lose their child until such time as they can show a 180 degree turn in their life and attitude.

SJ said...


I guess one of the hard parts of "wait where he works" could be that not many of these dealers have regular jobs.

(Or maybe the intel work necessary to figure out where/when his routine will allow the Police to swoop in on him outside the house gets less support than the SWAT teams...)

Several bad choices and pieces of poor planning collided here. The mother who kept the baby in the house; the Police who should have reconned for children in the house; the default to send SWAT in to conduct a raid that may not have needed; the lack of resources to catch the perp off-site...

Captain Tightpants said...

Peter - with respects, not trying to hijack your thread but a couple of comments I wanted to offer a professional reply to:

- In regards to "not making any entry if kids are present" - I won't go into the particulars of most "child protocol" systems, but you can still make entry and do what you must do IF such entry is warranted (a whole separate topic), while still minimizing risk of any kids getting hurt. The reason that flash bangs aren't used in such situations is that they are a risk of indiscriminate, 360 degree damage, and thus not worth the trade off.

- No, most police agencies DO NOT have cell phone jammers. The use of such items are strictly controlled by the FCC. So, while it holds potential in some cases as a great tool, it's not one in the tool box outside of VERY limited circumstances (and a SWAT raid for a dope warrant is not one of these).

- Yes, if possible in some cases, you certainly prefer to take the bad guy down away from home - when he doesn't have access to weapons, etc. - but sometimes this isn't an option.

I'll leave those as that for now. Apologies again sir.

Lissa said...

Thank you for keeping the pictures small. Little Gronk is nineteen months old. I just . . . I can't . . . NO.

Jon said...

The DA is complicit in this too. He has overseen this unit for years. So he will clear them to keep the apparent blood off his hands.

This is why the war on drugs needs to end. The war on poverty created nothing but more poverty. The war on drugs is just making our drug problem worse.

My daughter wants to be a cop. I support her in this, but I'm going to show her stories like this to keep her head and her heart firmly planted in reality.