HABERSHAM COUNTY, Ga. - The application for the no-knock warrant that left a toddler in critical condition says a criminal informant saw guns inside the home on previous occasions, but not the day of the raid according to Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh. That day, authorities say a SWAT team entered the home and used a flash-bang device that landed in 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh’s crib.
Kavanaugh went to the courthouse and pulled a copy of the search warrant application. A judge signed off on the warrant around midnight. Hours later, the special response team moved in through the side door into a room where the child was sleeping.
According to the application, the investigator told the judge a criminal informant “was able to purchase a quantity of methamphetamine from suspect, Wanis Tthonetheva, at the residence.” The investigator also described several individuals “standing guard, heavy traffic in and out,” and the “presence of weapons on previous occasions.” The report says that was the basis for the 'no-knock' provision. However, Kavanaugh found that nowhere in the application does the investigator detail a specific threat or danger to officers.
After the raid, when the warrant was returned, the only evidence reported was a “glass smoking device with residue of methamphetamine.” The report says there were no weapons and investigators didn't find their suspect either.
“Our primary focus is what rises to the level of ‘was that criminal,’” said District Attorney Brian Richman. “Should an officer go to jail for that? Was there an oversight or was there something that rises to the level of criminal liability?”
Rickman says his team is reviewing many of the same documents that Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh pulled. Rickman says he has officially requested the GBI's assistance in investigating what went wrong. His team met with the GBI Tuesday. Rickman says he knows the public wants answers, but says a thorough investigation will take time.
“You can't do a thorough review in a matter of 24, to 48 to 72 hours. It has to be done appropriately,” said Rickman.
Kavanaugh called and emailed the sheriff to discuss the warrant, but has not received a response.
At the courthouse, Kavanaugh also uncovered that in a previous plea agreement, the suspect, Wanis Tthonetheva, waived his 4th amendment right of search and seizure. Essentially that means the police could have legally searched him and his residence with or without probable cause. However, Rickman did say just because a suspect signs a 4th amendment waiver, doesn't mean there still couldn't be justification for a no-knock warrant.
The toddler was moved to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston Tuesday night.
Several activists including State Sen. Vincent Fort, the family’s attorney, and a family representative met with U.S. Attorney Sally Yates Monday afternoon.
According to a letter they delivered to Yates, they wanted to talk with her about starting an investigation into what happened to make sure the events of the raid last week are fully investigated.
"I was happy that she was concerned with not just what's been said today, but with the treatment of this family," said family spokesman Marcus Coleman about the meeting with Yates.
During a news conference Monday afternoon, others pointed to the lack of an investigation saying key evidence is still laying around the house.
“The pin from the grenade is still in the driveway so there has been absolutely no collection of evidence and that first and foremost is an issue,” said the family’s attorney, Mawuli Mel Davis. “The other thing that you will see is that we are doing our own investigation because as far as we're concerned no investigation has started."
“We feel a sense of urgency,” said Fort. “This family has a sense of urgency that someone needs to secure the scene and collect evidence."
Monday afternoon Yates released a statement about the incident. "As a parent, I can't imagine the horrible nightmare that this family is enduring. This is terrible tragedy that must be fully investigated. Federal and state authorities are coordinating to get to the bottom of what happened."