This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 2, 2016:
Last Friday a federal judge signed off on settlements totaling $3.6 million to be paid to the family of Bou Bou, an infant who was blown up in his crib during a no-knock raid in May, 2014. Said the family’s attorney:“We have worked diligently … to obtain the best possible result for Baby Bou Bou and his family. What we achieved will not fix what happened or take away [their] nightmares, but we hope it helps them move forward as a family.”
Small comfort. Bou Bou’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, described what happened at 2:25 am on Wednesday morning, May 28th, while she, he husband Bounkham and their four children were sleeping:
Everyone’s sleeping. There’s a loud bang and a bright light. The cops threw [a] grenade in the door without looking first, and it landed right in [Bou Bou’s] playpen and it exploded on his pillow right in his face.
Bou Bou, then 19 months old, nearly died. Investigative journalist Jacob Sullum, writing forReason magazine, said that baby Bou Bou suffered “blast burn injuries to the face and chest; a complex laceration of the nose, upper lip and face; 20% of the right upper lip missing; the external nose being separated from the underlying bone; and a large avulsion burn injury to [his] chest with a resulting left pulmonary contusion and sepsis.”
He’s gone through more than a dozen surgeries already, and more are going to be needed at least annually for the foreseeable future. Medical bills are already above a million dollars, and climbing.
When a grand jury investigation ruled that none of the deputies was criminally liable, the family sued civilly and Friday’s settlement concluded that chapter.
The FBI entered the picture with an indictment against one of the nine sheriffs involved in the raid, Nikki Autry:
In May 2014, Nikki Autry and a team of special agents and informants from the local Narcotics Criminal Investigation and Suppression Team were “attempting undercover narcotics buys.” Autry presented an affidavit to a magistrate judge falsely swearing that a “true and reliable informant” had bought a small amount of methamphetamine at a residence.”
In December the jury returned a not guilty verdict on all counts. Her claim that she thought the informant was reliable, coupled with her experience in dealing with the drug culture while a deputy, plus her claim that she was trying to “remove some of the poison from this community” impressed the jurors. Her attorney told the jury she had no ill intent, that it made no sense for her to risk her career on a $50 drug buy, and that she was likely being used as a “sacrificial lamb” in the case involving eight other officers.
Where does that leave us? The taxpayers are out millions; Bou Bou faces more surgeries as he tries to regain control of his face; his family has already burned through a million dollars in medical expenses with more to come; deputy Autry is now former deputy Autry with a blot on her record she’ll carry with her for years; and the other eight deputies who crashed through the door that Wednesday morning have left permanent scars not only on their own records but on law enforcement in general.
And all because, in a little known but profoundly important Supreme Court case decided in 1995, Wilson v. Arkansas, police were allowed, in “exigent” circumstances only, to ignore the Fourth Amendment and use “no-knock” warrants, requiring police only to “knock and announce” their entry on their way in. Through mission creep those “exigent” circumstances have grown to include any possible sort of risk serving officers might face behind that door. The suspect might be armed and thus possibly present a risk to life and limb to the officers. He might be able to get to a john and flush incriminating evidence before the officers could retrieve it. As Radley Balko wrote in his book Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America:
In the real world, the exigent-circumstances exceptions [to the Fourth Amendment] have been so broadly interpreted since Wilson, they’ve overwhelmed the rule. No-knock raids have been justified on the flimsiest of reasons, including that the suspect was a licensed, registered gun owner (NRA, take note!), or that the mere presence of indoor plumbing could be enough to trigger the “destruction of evidence” exception.
And so, while Bou Bou has suffered mightily along with his family and the local taxpayers footing the bill for the damage settlement, the most grievous damage has been inflicted on the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches, and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.