Bounkham Phonesavanh, 48, shuffled between two printed exhibits depicting disparate versions of his then 18-month-old boy nicknamed “Bou Bou.”
The first picture showed the boy with his “perfect teeth, perfect mouth” before drug task force officers entered the Cornelia home where they stayed, Phonesavanh said.
“And this is him now,” the father said as he cried into a crumpled tissue in his hand, gesturing to the image of the boy after some dozen surgeries to his face.
Testimony continued Wednesday in the case of Nikki Autry, 29, of Cleveland, a former Habersham County Sheriff’s Office deputy who sought a “no-knock” warrant. Autry is accused of providing false information to a magistrate judge to obtain the warrant, which is considered a federal civil rights violation.
Phonesavanh and his sister Amanda Thonetheva both testified Wednesday afternoon regarding the early hours of May 28, 2014, when drug task force members entered the home. A flash-bang grenade landed near Bou Bou and caused severe facial injuries.
Officers were looking for Wanis Thonetheva, Phonesavanh’s nephew, who authorities believed had sold methamphetamine earlier to a confidential informant.
The allegations from the U.S. Attorney’s Office are that Autry, the case agent, allegedly told a magistrate judge that a reliable informant had bought drugs at the house and that there was heavy traffic at the home. The prosecution said it believes this to be false.
Amanda Thonetheva, speaking through an interpreter, said she thought she was being robbed.
“I opened the door and and someone stomped on me,” the toddler’s aunt said through the interpreter.
Wanis Thonetheva, who Autry’s attorney Jeff Brickman and other witnesses Wednesday said had previous weapons charges, would come and go frequently from the home, Amanda Thonetheva said.
On cross-examination, Brickman asked Amanda Thonetheva why he didn’t live there at the time of the raid. The reasons, she said, included the fact he wanted to live with his girlfriend and the allegation of stolen necklaces.
Bounkham Phonesavanh, who shares the same first name as his son, was staying with his family at his sister’s home after their Wisconsin home burned down.
The elder Bounkham Phonesavanh said he remembered the heat coming out of the crib, though he didn’t see his son at first.
“The crib was all blown apart and the pillow was burned,” he said.
He then heard his boy crying when the ambulance came around. Bou Bou spent five weeks in a coma, his father said.
Brickman asked Phonesavanh about comments made to WSB-TV regarding a nephew messing with drugs. Phonesavanh said he couldn’t recall these statements. Autry’s attorney also mentioned the family’s ongoing lawsuit and previous financial settlement.
The Habersham County government reached a settlement agreement totalling $964,000 in April. None of the officers involved were charged with criminal wrongdoing by the Habersham County grand jury.
Testimony will resume again Thursday at 9 a.m.