- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Habersham County officials in Georgia said they will not pay for the medical expenses incurred by a 19-month-old who was badly burned by a flash grenade during a police raid.

Bounkham Phonesavanh spent weeks in a burn unit after a SWAT team’s flash grenade exploded near his face as he slept in his home on May 28, ABC affiliate WSBTV reported over the weekend.

SWAT officers launched the grenade while executing a search warrant for a drug suspect, who was not found inside the home. An investigation is reportedly underway into the handling of the case.

“I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him,” the boy’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, told Salon magazine in June. “He screamed at me to sit down and shut up and blocked my view, so I couldn’t see my son. I could see a singed crib, and I could see a pool of blood.

“The officers yelled at me to calm down and told me my son was fine, that he’d just lost a tooth,” she added. “It was only hours later when they finally let us drive to the hospital that we found out Bou Bou was in the intensive burn unit and that he’d been placed into a medically induced coma.”

Habersham County officials are defending their decision not to pay for the child’s medical bills, saying it wouldn’t be legal to take on the costs.

“The question before the board was whether it is legally permitted to pay these expenses,” Habersham County’s attorney told WSBTV in a statement. “After consideration of this question following advice of counsel, the board of commissioners has concluded that it would be in violation of the law for it to do so.”

As for Baby Bounkham, the little boy walked out of a hospital with his family after weeks of recovery. A fundraiser is planned for him in August, the station reported.

“His face still bears scars that are going to take a number of reconstructive surgeries,” said family spokesman Marcus Coleman, Raw Story reported. “We have been informed by the family that every single night, every single night, this child wakes up screaming and holding his face.”

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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