Police using a stun grenade to subdue the occupants of a Billings, Montana house in a drug raid burned a 12-year-old girl with the device. According to the Missoulian, the girl was sleeping on the floor of her sister’s room when the device went off, causing first and second degree burns over one side of her body.
“She has first- and second-degree burns down the left side of her body and on her arms,” the girl’s mother, Jackie Fasching, told the paper. ”She’s got severe pain. Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes.”
Images at the Missoulian website (WARNING: Graphic) show the girl’s torso mottled with black and red burns, as well as the hole blown in her sister’s wall when the concussion grenade detonated.
Stun or “flash-bang” grenades are typically used by police as a non-lethal means of disorienting and confusing the occupants of a house or building prior to a raid. An officer was extending the bomb into the room on the end of a stick when he dropped it on the floor.
Billings Police Chief Rich St. John, who said that Tuesday’s pre-dawn raid on the house was part of “an ongoing narcotics investigation” told the Missoulian that typically the grenades are not so close to people, let alone minors, when they go off.
“It was totally unforeseen, totally unplanned and extremely regrettable,” he said. “We certainly did not want a juvenile, or anyone else for that matter, to get injured.”
According to the Missoulian, the officer charged with deploying the grenade didn’t understand that there would be a delay before the device went off. Thinking it was a dud, he dropped it on the floor next to the sleeping girl while he went to get a second device. Seconds later, it exploded, terrifying both girls and sending one to the hospital burn unit.
The family protests that they were not only not harboring a drug operation, but were attempting to cooperate with the police.
“A simple knock on the door and I would’ve let them in,” said Fasching, who was home with her husband and two daughters at the time of the raid. ”They said their intel told them there was a meth lab at our house. If they would’ve checked, they would’ve known there’s not.”
Fasching said that her husband, who is disabled, was in the process of opening the front door for the officers when they knocked it down.
St. John insists that the department had done adequate research on the house and its inhabitants, but said, “The information that we had did not have any juveniles in the house and did not have any juveniles in the room. We generally do not introduce these disorienting devices when they’re present.”
“The warrant was based on some hard evidence and everything we knew at the time,” he said.
Fasching said that the raid has left her and the two girls with unshakeable feelings of anxiety and fear.
“I’m going to have to take them to counseling,” she said. “They’re never going to get over that.”
No arrests were made or charges filed against anyone in the house, although St. John said that some evidence was recovered. He declined to give specifics and said that the department would “take care of” any mistakes it might have made.
Fasching has filed a claim with the city and is considering legal action, but said that her primary concern, right now, is with her daughters.
“I would like to see whoever threw those grenades in my daughter’s room be reprimanded,” the Missoulianquotes her as saying. “If anybody else did that it would be aggravated assault. I just want to see that the city is held accountable for what they did to my children.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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