Raid similar to that in which Detroit’s Aiyana Jones, 7, was killed
DECEMBER 7, 2015
From multiple sources
ATLANTA — Nikki Autry, former Habersham County deputy sheriff and special agent of the Mountain Judicial Circuit Criminal Investigation and Suppression Team (“NCIS”), faces trial today on charges that she used false information to get a warrant for a “no-knock” drug raid that severely injured a toddler when a flash grenade detonated in his playpen, in May, 2014.
The grenade blew 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh’s chest and face open, burning him and causing possible brain damage. He has had multiple surgeries since the raid.
The boy’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, said Autrey “ruined our family’s life by not doing her job properly.”
Autry, who has since resigned from the sheriff’s office, pled not guilty. Her attorney said she never “intentionally” misled the judge.
In an indictment July 22, 2015, federal prosecutors said Autry relied on untested informants who purchased crystal meth from an unknown person outside the house where Bou Bou and his family were living temporarily. One informant claimed there was unusual foot traffic around the house, a claim which prosecutors said was never verified.
The indictment said in part, ” . . . .a brand new NCIS informant and two of his associates—his wife and a roommate—went to a residence located in Cornelia, Georgia. The informant’s roommate, who was not officially working with NCIS, approached the residence and allegedly purchased a small quantity of methamphetamine from an individual unknown to him who was standing outside the residence. There was no police surveillance to verify the purchase. Shortly afterwards, Autry presented an affidavit to a Habersham County magistrate judge falsely swearing that the NCIS informant made the purchase and that the NCIS informant was ‘a true and reliable informant who has provided information in the past that has led to criminal charges on individuals selling narcotics in Habersham County.'” (Full document at Former Habersham County Deputy Sheriff Charged for Her Role in Flash Bang Grenade Incident.)
Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn said, “Without [Autry’s] false statements, there was no probable cause to search the premises for drugs or to make the arrest. And in this case, the consequences of the unlawful search were tragic.”
The toddler’s family has so far been awarded $964,000 in a settlement with Habersham County’s Board of Commissioners. Lawsuits are still pending against other counties that took part in the multi-agency task force raid.