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Trigger Warning: SWAT Raids, terrible injuries.
Alecia Phonesavanh has been through so much in the last few weeks that few people would blame her for turning into a media-shy recluse. Ever since her family sprang to national attention in the wake of a bungled drug raid that left her son in a medically-induced coma, she’s had to care for a son in a coma and three traumatized little girls who saw their brother injured by police.
On June 24th, she made the incredibly brave decision to go public in a more personal way, publishing an article in Salon describing the terrible ordeal that their family has had to go through during and in the wake of the unnecessary raid. The worst part of her story is something that will wring true for everyone who has had police smash into their home, armed and shouting for immediate compliance: the police wouldn’t let her check on or see her gravely injured son even though she was in no way involved with any criminal activity or the warrant they were executing. Her son was bleeding and screaming a few feet away from her and the people who had hurt him so badly denied both Alecia and Bou Bou the comfort of a mother’s touch in a moment of pain and crisis.
In her article, Alecia talks about clear and obvious signs that there were children present, signs that SWAT members should have noticed before smashing into the residence. After their home in Wisconsin burned down, they had driven their family van down to Georgia to live with a family member. That van, complete with one of those trendy sticky-figure families in the rear window, was sitting in the driveway the morning of the raid. Alecia states that there were toys in the front yard, but the official response has been that the people involved with the raid would have had no way of knowing that children were present.
Baby Bou Bou still has severe injuries, although he is now officially out of his medically-induced coma. Alecia says he has a hole in his chest so deep that his ribs are visible, though she admits she is still too horrified to look at it herself. The terrible pain and trauma experienced doesn’t end with Bou Bou’s physical injuries, either. Her article also describes how one of her daughters, only eight years old, woke up at night crying out, worried that her brother was being killed. Instead of being a symbol of safety and protection, for this family, police officers are now the stuff of nightmares.
This is why, Alecia explains, she is working with the ACLU on the rise of paramilitary raids and no-knock warrants being used in the War on Drugs. She wants to lead the charge for greater restraints on the use of SWAT teams. A recent report in The Nation indicates that in 2011-2012, 62% of SWAT team deployments were drug searches. Of those, at least a third of them found no contraband.
The raid on the Phonesavanh family was one of those raids where drugs weren’t found. In fact, the person the police were looking for didn’t even live in the home where the warrant was served and was not present at the time of the raid. That just makes what the Phonesavanh family has experienced so much more tragic.
Alecia Phonesavanh isn’t taking this sitting down. She’s ready to lead the charge for real reform on the issue of paramilitary police raids, and she needs your support to bring this issue to national attention. She has started a website, JusticeforBabyBouBou.com, where you can donate to their family or find updates on their activities. You can also like their Facebook page to get updates on Bou Bou’s progress.
Photo Credit: The Phonesavanh Family