A police raid in late May of this year took a tragic turn when a flash grenade landed in the playpen of 19-month-old Bou Bou and exploded, causing severe injuries to his face, arms and abdomen. Bou Bou’s parents, Alecia and Bounkham, join The Doctors to share how this horrific tragedy has affected their family.
At the time of the event, Alecia, Bounkham and their children were staying temporarily with Bounkham’s sister because the family’s home in Wisconsin recently had burned down. Acting on information that there was alleged drug activity on the premises and that the alleged drug dealer lived at the home, police obtained a warrant and raided the home at 2 a.m. A flash grenade was used prior to police entry due to officers’ belief that dangerous weapons were present in the home and no children were inside. Bounkham and Alecia claim that officers yelled at them and forced Bounkham to the ground while they searched the home, only to find that the suspect was not there, nor were any drugs or weapons found. The parents say they were terrified when they saw the smoldering remains of their child’s playpen and were unable to locate their son.
Emergency services rushed Bou Bou from the scene to a nearby hospital, where he was placed into a medically induced coma. The grenade caused open wounds in his face and chest, as well as severe burns. Additionally, he suffered brain trauma and his left lung collapsed, making it difficult for him to breathe on his own. Since the event, Bou Bou has undergone eight separate surgeries, including one to reattach his nose.
“When I looked at the extent of the injuries, [I thought] no one could survive that,” Bounkham says.
Although the family is relieved to learn that Bou Bou likely will not suffer any long-term brain injury, plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon advises that Bou Bou will need at least one more surgery to remove scar tissue and gun powder embedded in his chest.
While the physical injuries as a result of the raid have been extensive, the financial ramifications have been severe, as well. Alecia says the family is more than $1 million in debt, and due to injuries to his shoulder, which he sustained during the raid, Bounkham has been unable to work. The family says they have not received any monetary compensation from the county and have retained legal counsel.
“We’re devastated. Not only have they crippled us, my husband and my son physically, they’ve crippled us emotionally, psychologically … and financially,” Alecia states.
The county released the following statement in regard to the case:
We have received a request from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Grady Hospital to pay certain expenses for the care of Bounkham Pawn John Phonesavahn who was injured during the execution of a search warrant by members of the Habersham County Sheriff's Office and others. This request comes as a result of the Habersham County Sheriff's statement that the bills be sent to him for payment.
The question before the Board was whether it is legally permitted to pay these expenses. 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 a result, the County Manager is hereby directed to so notify Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Grady Hospital. The Board continues to express its concern for the welfare of young Bounkham and its sincere hope for his full and speedy recovery.
The family’s lawyer, Mawuli Mel Davis, challenges the position taken by the county and claims that if Bou Bou had been the suspect police were searching for, the county automatically would be liable to pay for his medical care.
In addition to physical and financial consequences, Alecia and Bounkham reveal that the event has taken an extreme toll on their and their children’s emotional and psychological well-being. Alecia explains that her children no longer trust her and her husband, and they experience severe anxiety when they see police or security officers.
Dr. Phil McGraw advises the parents that their No.1 priority right now is to nurture their family and take care of themselves. “Children are resilient; they will recover,” he says. He then recommends that the couple sit down and create a list of 50 blessings in their life, which they should read back to each other once a week.
“If the only way to maintain your sanity is for this to come out fair, you’re going to go crazy,” Dr. Phil says. “There is no fair; there is only reality.”
“No matter how bad things are now, we [have] a lot to be thankful for still,” Alecia says through tears.