October 12, 2012
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 “flash bang” 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 “boomstick,” 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.
“A simple knock on the door and I would’ve let them in,” the girl’s mother Jackie Fasching told the Billings Gazette.
“She has first- and second-degree burns down the left side of her body and on her arms,” Mrs. Fasching stated. “She’s got severe pain. Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes.”
The Billings police chief called the raid’s damage “totally unforeseen, totally unplanned and extremely regrettable.”
“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 innocent 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,” 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 “done their homework” prior to the raid. “The information that we had did not have any juveniles in the house and did not have any juveniles in the room,” St. John told the Gazette. “We generally do not introduce these disorienting devices when they’re present.”
Damage done to both the house and the girl were photographed by Mrs. Fasching and provided to the Gazette. One image depicts the indention produced by the grenade on the bedroom wall. Another shows the extent of Fasching’s daughter’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. “If we’re wrong or made a mistake, then we’re going to take care of it,” St. John 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.”
Fasching worries that her daughter will need counseling after the traumatizing event, but holds the police department firmly culpable. “I would like to see whoever threw those grenades in my daughter’s room be reprimanded…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.”