Montana SWAT team drops a flash grenade through a window into a bedroom where two children are sleeping. No arrests. No alleged meth lab.
A 12-year-old girl suffered burns to one side of her body when a flash grenade went off next to her as a police SWAT team raided a West End home Tuesday morning.
“She has first- and second-degree burns down the left side of her body and on her arms,” said the girl’s mother, Jackie Fasching. “She’s got severe pain. Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes.”
Medical staff at the scene tended to the girl afterward and then her mother drove her to the hospital, where she was treated and released later that day.
A photo of the girl provided by Fasching to The Gazette shows red and black burns on her side.
Police Chief Rich St. John said the 6 a.m. raid at 2128 Custer Ave., was to execute a search warrant as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation by the City-County Special Investigations Unit . . .
“It was totally unforeseen, totally unplanned and extremely regrettable,” St. John said. “We certainly did not want a juvenile, or anyone else for that matter, to get injured.”
Well, I’ll give him unplanned. Though I don’t think he meant it in the way I mean it. Sorry, but when you’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 you’re detonating, the possibility that an innocence person might get burned is not “totally unforeseen.” It’s only unforeseen when you’re so caught up in your drug war that you can’t be bothered to take the time to consider the possible collateral damage your actions may cause.
On Thursday, Fasching took her daughter back to the hospital to have her wounds treated.
She questioned why police would take such actions with children in the home and why it needed a SWAT team.
“A simple knock on the door and I would’ve let them in,” she said. “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.”
She and her two daughters and her husband were home at the time of the raid. She said her husband, who suffers from congenital heart disease and liver failure, told officers he would open the front door as the raid began and was opening it as they knocked it down.
When the grenade went off in the room, it left a large bowl-shaped dent in the wall and “blew the nails out of the drywall,” Fasching said.
St. John said investigators did plenty of homework on the residence before deciding to launch the raid but didn’t know children were inside.
“The information that we had did not have any juveniles in the house and did not have any juveniles in the room,” he said. “We generally do not introduce these disorienting devices when they’re present.”
I’ve probably read about more than a thousand of these raids by now. The cognitive dissonance still astounds me. No, Chief St. John, if you did not know there were two children in the home, if you did not know that you were dropping a flash grenade into a child’s bedroom, you pretty clearly did not do “plenty” of goddamned “homework.”
Investigators consider dozens of items such as residents’ past criminal convictions, other criminal history, mental illness and previous interactions with law enforcement.
Each item is assigned a point value and if the total exceeds a certain threshold, SWAT is requested. Then a commander approves or rejects the request.
In Tuesday’s raid, the points exceeded the threshold and investigators called in SWAT.
“Every bit of information and intelligence that we have comes together and we determine what kind of risk is there,” St. John said. “The warrant was based on some hard evidence and everything we knew at the time.”
Sounds awfully professional, doesn’t it? Except that they were looking for a meth lab, and pretty clearly didn’t find it. I mean, unless the Faschings recently had their house fumigated by Vamonos Pest Control, a meth lab isn’t something you can easily pick up and move.
“If we’re wrong or made a mistake, then we’re going to take care of it,” he said. “But if it determines we’re not, then we’ll go with that. When we do this, we want to ensure the safety of not only the officers, but the residents inside.”
The last four words are self-evidently complete and utter crap. And sure. Let’s go ahead and entrust the same department that just carried out this debacle after doing “plenty of homework” to investigate itself to determine if it did anything wrong. That sounds like a perfectly fair, impartial way to treat the Faschings.