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Georgia Briefs - June 5, 2014

Drug raid that burned toddler probed

ATLANTA (Reuters) — Law enforcement authorities in Georgia said on Tuesday they are investigating police tactics in the case of a 19-month-old boy who was severely burned last week by a “flash bang” grenade tossed into a house to distract a drug suspect during a raid.

The toddler, Bounkham Phonesavanh, remained hospitalized on Wednesday with critical injuries he sustained when the police device landed in the playpen where he was sleeping.

“As a parent, I can’t imagine the horrible nightmare that this family is enduring,” said Sally Yates, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. “This is a terrible tragedy that must be fully investigated. Federal and state authorities are coordinating to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Habersham County District Attorney Brian Rickman asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation this week to determine whether the police officers committed a crime when they injured the toddler.

“Life-threatening injuries are not an acceptable result for any drug investigation,” Rickman said in a statement.

Phonesavanh was asleep in the house when police conducted a “no-knock” raid on May 28 to arrest a suspect who earlier had sold methamphetamine to an undercover officer. The suspect was not in the house during the raid but later was arrested nearby, Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell said.

Terrell previously called the child’s injuries “devastating” but unavoidable, saying police had no information suggesting there were children in the home.

Columbus homeless man set on fire

COLUMBUS (MCT) — Medics rushed a 48-year-old homeless man to the Midtown Medical Center for burn treatment after he was set on fire at the tent city near J.R. Allen Parkway’s Exit 1, according to a Columbus police report.

The victim told police an unnamed suspect intentionally burned him around 8:55 p.m. Tuesday. He was listed in critical condition at the time of the report.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported that Fire Marshal Ricky Shores said the man was transferred from the Midtown Medical Center to a burn center for second and third degree burns to his upper torso. He remained in critical condition at an undisclosed burn center Wednesday.

Shores said police have developed a suspect. The name of the suspect was unavailable. Officials declined to release the instrument used to burn the victim.

Columbus Fire & Emergency Medical Services is working the case along with the Columbus Police Department.

Killer caught having sex with another inmate

ATLANTA (MCT) — A convicted murderer was caught having sex with another inmate in the Fulton County Jail last week, according to authorities — although that account is disputed by the murderer in question, Norris Speed, who said that he wasn’t able to “to do anything” before being found by deputies.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Speed picked the lock to his cell in order to make a phone call. En route, he found Jasmine Jones and invited her back to his cell. Jones was out of her cell to shower. Both inmates were in the jail’s medical wing.

“(Jones) stated that inmate Speed popped opened the side door and told her to come into his cell. Inmate Jones then stated that she was tempted and let the lust get the best of her,” Sheriff Deputy Michael Watts wrote in the official incident report, obtained by the AJC on Monday. “She willingly entered inmate Speed’s cell although she was extremely nervous,” Watts wrote.

Watts found the pair in Speed’s cell, according to the report. Speed denied sexual contact. Jones confirmed it.

Speed was convicted of murdering Atlanta police Officer Niles Johangten in 1991 and has been sentenced to death. Jones was booked into the jail on murder and robbery charges in October 2011.

Athens expanding downtown cameras

ATHENS (MCT) — The Athens-Clarke County Commission passed on Tuesday an ordinance to transfer $150,000 from the police department’s Fiscal Year 2014 Operating Budget to a capital funds account to expand the current Downtown Public Safety Camera System into a “Central City Public Safety Camera System.”

The number of new cameras and technology utilized will depend on costs as they’re detailed by vendors who bid on the project, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.

Woman rescued from burning home

ATLANTA (MCT) — DeKalb County firefighters Wednesday morning rescued a 60-year-old woman from a Stone Mountain-area home that caught fire.

Fire crews received a report of an entrapment at the home on Stonehaven Way, DeKalb fire Capt. Eric Jackson said.

They arrived at the home shortly after 6:30 a.m. and “encountered heavy flame involvement on approximately 75 percent of the house,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Firefighters tried to enter through the front door, but “there was just far too much flame and smoke conditions, so we went around to the back side,” Jackson said.

When they raised a ladder to an upstairs window, “we found the victim, an elderly female, at the base of the window,” he said. Firefighters brought the woman down the ladder, and she was taken to a local hospital, where she was reported to be in stable condition.

A second person, a 58-year-old man who lived in the basement of the house, made it out on his own, but was also taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. Roxe Polain-King told The AJC she is the sister of the man in the basement and the rescued woman. She said six people were in the home at the time of the fire. The remaining occupants made it out of the home without the assistance of emergency personnel, Polain-King said.

Jackson said the split-level home was extensively damaged.