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Feds, Georgia to probe police drug raid that burned toddler

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Law enforcement authorities in Georgia said on Tuesday they are investigating police tactics in the case of a 19-month-old boy who was severely burned last week by a "flash bang" grenade tossed into a house to distract a drug suspect during a raid.

The toddler, Bounkham Phonesavanh, remained hospitalized on Wednesday with critical injuries he sustained when the police device landed in the playpen where he was sleeping.

"As a parent, I can't imagine the horrible nightmare that this family is enduring," said Sally Yates, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. "This is a terrible tragedy that must be fully investigated. Federal and state authorities are coordinating to get to the bottom of what happened."

Habersham County District Attorney Brian Rickman asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation this week to determine whether the police officers committed a crime when they injured the toddler.

“Life-threatening injuries are not an acceptable result for any drug investigation,” Rickman said in a statement.

Phonesavanh was asleep in the house when police conducted a "no-knock" raid on May 28 to arrest a suspect who earlier had sold methamphetamine to an undercover officer. The suspect was not in the house during the raid but later was arrested nearby, Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell said.

Terrell previously called the child's injuries “devastating” but unavoidable, saying police had no information suggesting there were children in the home.

Lawyer Mawuli Mel Davis, who is representing Phonesavanh's family, said a competent investigation would have revealed the presence of the boy and his three siblings.

"I don’t know what kind of surveillance they did but that can't be the standard," Davis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Alden Bentley)