Bungled SWAT Raid Leaves 12-year-old Girl Badly Burned, No Meth Lab Found
An early morning SWAT team raid on an alleged meth house produced no meth lab or arrests and instead left a 12-year-old girl badly burned by a flashbang grenade.
It all happened at a Billings, Montana home Tuesday around 6am. While the Fasching family slept, a SWAT team assembled outside their home mobilizing a coordinated raid.
The grenade used was of the non-lethal â€śflash bangâ€ť variety, made to disorient and cause temporary vision and hearing impairment through a bright flash and a loud blast. It was positioned into a window by a SWAT member using a metal pole called a â€śboomstick,â€ť which acts as a detonator once the grenade is in place.
The window SWAT chose, however, was in a room where two girls were sleeping, and due to an unexpected delay the grenade fell off the boomstick and went off right next to a girl that lay sleeping on the floor under the window.
â€śA simple knock on the door and I wouldâ€™ve let them in,â€ť the girlâ€™s mother Jackie Fasching told theÂ Billings Gazette.
â€śShe has first- and second-degree burns down the left side of her body and on her arms,â€ť Mrs. Fasching stated. â€śSheâ€™s got severe pain. Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes.â€ť
The Billings police chief called the raidâ€™s damage â€śtotally unforeseen, totally unplanned and extremely regrettable.â€ť
â€śWell, Iâ€™ll give himÂ unplanned. Though I donâ€™t think he meant it in the way I mean it. Sorry, but when youâ€™re blindly shoving a flash grenade attached to a boomstick through a window, and you clearly have no idea who or what is in that room where youâ€™re detonating, the possibility that an innocent person might get burned is not â€śtotally unforeseen.â€ť Itâ€™s onlyÂ unforeseenÂ when youâ€™re so caught up in your drug war that you canâ€™t be bothered to take the time to consider the possible collateral damage your actions may cause,â€ťÂ The Agitator quipped. [some emphasis added]
Instead of issuing a formal apology, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John blamed gross negligence on the part of police intelligence who supposedly had â€śdone their homeworkâ€ť prior to the raid. â€śThe information that we had did not have any juveniles in the house and did not have any juveniles in the room,â€ť St. John told the Gazette. â€śWe generally do not introduce these disorienting devices when theyâ€™re present.â€ť
Damage done to both the house and the girl were photographed by Mrs. Fasching and provided to the Gazette. One image depicts theÂ indention produced by the grenade on the bedroom wall. Another showsÂ the extent of Faschingâ€™s daughterâ€™s burns.
Although the Billings police department was clearly in the wrong, police chief St. John stated they would not admit their mistake until a formal investigation was concluded. â€śIf weâ€™re wrong or made a mistake, then weâ€™re going to take care ofÂ it,â€ť St. John said. â€śBut if it determines weâ€™re not, then weâ€™ll go with that. When we do this, we want to ensure the safety of not only the officers, but the residents inside.â€ť
Fasching worries that her daughter will need counseling after the traumatizing event, but holds the police department firmly culpable. â€śI would like to see whoever threw those grenades in my daughterâ€™s room be reprimandedâ€¦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.â€ť
October 12, 2012