Queensland – While sleeping in bed with her fiancé, a former Miss Australia awoke to a police flashbang grenade disfiguring her face and melting her hand. Although she required immediate medical attention, paramedics did not arrive at the scene until 40 minutes later.
Crowned Miss International Australia in 2013, Felicia Djamirze was asleep in bed with her fiancé, Dean O’Donnell last week, when a police flashbang grenade landed in their bedroom. Accused of drug trafficking, the former Miss Australia was placed under arrest as police waited 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. The cops refused to allow Djamirze to see her injuries even though she suffered third-degree burns to her face and right hand.
During a series of early morning drug raids, Queensland Police callously decided to toss a flashbang grenade into the bedroom of alleged Rebels biker associate Dean O’Donnell. Despite the fact that the police had been conducting surveillance on the house, the cops chose to throw the flashbang into the room while O’Donnell was asleep with his fiancée.
“The police treated this like a military operation which was entirely unnecessary,” Djamirze’s lawyer, Chris Ford, told the Daily Mail. “There was a high level of both physical and electronic surveillance. The police must have known my client was sleeping in a confined area when they tossed the stun grenade into her bedroom.”
Still hospitalized on Monday, Djamirze has endured two surgeries to repair her melted hand while at risk of losing sight in her right eye. Although she now suffers from PTSD after the police raid, the former Miss Australia has reportedly started a GoFundMe page dedicated to helping burn victims and trauma patients. As Djamirze denies the drug trafficking charges against her and her fiancé, O’Donnell has been charged with both drug trafficking and possession of illegal weapons.
While staying with relatives in Habersham County, Georgia, the Phonesavanh family had been asleep when a SWAT team executed a no-knock search warrant just before 3:00 a.m. on May 28, 2014. Before the police entered the room with guns drawn, Habersham Deputy Charles Long tossed a flashbang grenade into 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh’s crib. The explosion blew a hole in the baby’s face and chest, covering him in third-degree burns.
The search warrant had been intended for Bounkham’s cousin who was suspected of making a $50 drug sale. The suspected cousin no longer lived in the house and was later arrested without incident. After being transported to an intensive burn unit, Bounkham was placed into a medically induced coma. Habersham County officials refused to cover the baby’s medical expenses.
On the evening of January 5, 2011, 68-year-old Eurie Stamps was in his pajamas watching television when SWAT officers forcibly entered his home with a battering ram and tossed in a flashbang grenade. Not a suspect of any crime, Stamps complied with Officer Paul Duncan’s orders to lie facedown with his hands on his head. Duncan claims his bulky equipment caused him to lose balance and accidentally discharge his weapon. Stamps died on the floor with a bullet in his back. The suspect, his stepson Joseph Bushfan, had already been arrested outside the residence minutes before the raid.
Just past midnight on May 16, 2010, a Detroit SWAT team tossed a flashbang grenade into the living room where 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones had been sleeping on the couch. As the flashbang incinerated her blanket, Aiyana was immediately shot in the head by Officer Joseph Weekley. Weekly claimed that Aiyana’s grandmother had reached for his weapon, but ballistics and another officer’s testimony refute his accusations. Police later realized they had forcibly entered the wrong apartment. The suspect, Chauncey Owens, lived upstairs.
On January 4, 2008, Tarika Wilson had been holding her 14-month-old son when an Ohio SWAT team broke down her front door. Sgt. Joe Chavalia entered the residence shooting both Tarika and her infant son. Unarmed and not suspected of any crimes, Tarika died of her wounds while her child survived. Chavalia was charged with two misdemeanors, negligent homicide, and negligent assault. An all-white jury convened for three hours before returning with a not guilty verdict.
During a drug raid in Modesto, California, 11-year-old Alberto Sepulveda was lying facedown on his bedroom floor when Officer David Hawn entered the room and fired his shotgun. Claiming his shotgun accidentally discharged, Hawn refused to accept responsibility for taking Alberto’s life on September 13, 2000. Clearing Hawn of any criminal charges, former Attorney General Bill Lockyer admitted, “Unfortunately, too many times the deployment of a SWAT team has resulted in the unintentional death or injury to a peace officer or member of the public.”
The concept of the SWAT team formed as a reaction to the 1965 Watts riots. Since that time, the federal government has been pouring increasing amounts of money and military-grade weapons into the hands of law enforcement agencies. Citing the wars on drugs and terror to rationalize their actions, federal assistance from the DOD’s 1033 Program and the DOJ’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant has been escalating the militarization of American police forces.
By sidestepping the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the U.S. government has blurred the divisions between the military and the police, and the Australian government appears to be following in step. The executions of no-knock search warrants too closely resemble the night raids conducted in Afghanistan and Iraq. When the police become the military, the enemy becomes everyone.
Andrew Emett is a Los Angeles-based reporter exposing political and corporate corruption. His interests include national security, corporate abuse, and holding government officials accountable. Andrew’s work has appeared on Raw Story, Alternet, Activist Post, and many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @AndrewEmett and on Facebook at Andrew Emett.
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