“I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him,” Alecia Phonesavanh recalled when describing the pre-dawn raid. “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. 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.”
Barely hanging onto life, Baby Bou Bou was just 19 months old at the time.
Baby Bou Bou, his 3 siblings, and his parents had only recently moved in with family in 2014, after they lost their own home to a fire. After the violent raid, it was found that authorities had acted on bad information.
Kathryn Johnston, 92, was not as “lucky” as Bou Bou. She was shot 39 times when her home was raided in 2006. As she lay dying, she was handcuffed on the floor, where she would soon succumb to her injuries.
Kathryn lived in a high-crime neighborhood. She had taken precautions to protect herself from home invasion, such as installing extra locks and burglar bars. She also owned a gun, which she used to fire over the heads of the invaders as her door came crashing down that terrible night.
Those involved in the raid were found to have manufactured all of the evidence they claimed justified their aggressive tactics. They were also found to have planted evidence in her home upon her death.
While one might easily think these heart-wrenching stories came out of warzones in far-away lands, where there is no presumption of innocence or heavy burden of proof requirements, the truth is, both incidents happened right here in America. And there are thousands of other stories like these, dating back to the 70’s when no-knock raids first came on the scene in the U.S.
Initially, the tactic was used only in extreme situations, such as active shooter scenarios or hostage situations. Today, between 80-90% of these raids occur merely to serve a search warrant for suspects of non-violent crimes. According to ACLU, up to 65% of these raids conclude with “no contraband of any kind” being found. And there is no way of knowing the exact statistics of the raids, since law enforcement agencies regularly refuse public records requests, “either in full or in part.”
No-knock raids have been banned by civilized society since 1604. Most state laws require law enforcement to announce themselves prior to conducting any raid or executing a search warrant. Yet in at least 65% of SWAT deployments, violent entry is made after the tap on the door fails to elicit an immediate response, often times in the dark of night while families are sleeping inside.
There are far too many stories to mention of “informants” giving false information – and even police misconduct – that resulted in damaged or destroyed property at best and injuries or death of innocent people and family pets at worst.
Dogs – even when they are chained or kenneled – are routinely shot in these encounters.
And it’s not just innocent, law-abiding citizens and their pets that are victims – it’s law enforcement as well. The majority of these raids are carried out under the cover of darkness by officers clothed all in black or in military fatigues. Residents wake up and believe their home is under gang attack and they defend their home and their loved ones, sometimes resulting in serious injury or death of officers involved in the raid.
Officer Adam Sowders was a casualty of a paramilitary raid in Texas in 2013. His department acted on bad information given to them by an informant, who was himself in trouble with the law, and there was no subsequent investigation prior to the raid.
Ironically, the homeowner had been approached by law enforcement just weeks before the tragic raid because he had been firing guns on his rural property and received a noise complaint. On that occasion, the officers knocked on his door and they spoke without incident. Officer Sowders likely would still be alive had the team merely knocked on that fateful day.
State legislatures must act to ban the practice of no-knock raids for non-violent crimes and the no-knock warrants that precipitate them, reserving use of this tactic only when facing a hostage or active shooter situation, and Campaign for Liberty state groups are working toward that end.
Check out your state Campaign for Liberty page here to see if they are currently working on this issue. (Be sure to check back often for new battles.)
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