By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A 19-month-old boy was fighting for his life at an Atlanta hospital on Friday after being severely burned by a "flash bang" grenade police tossed into the house to distract a drug suspect during a raid, police said.
The toddler was injured early on Wednesday when the device landed in the playpen where the child was sleeping, said Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell.
An undercover officer had purchased methamphetamine from a man who lived in the house, and police returned to arrest him in a “no-knock” raid, Terrell said. The suspect had previously been arrested on weapons charges, according to the sheriff.
Officers used a battering ram to open the home's locked door, Terrell said.
“They opened it up just enough to get the flash bang in,” said the sheriff. Terrell called the incident “devastating” but unavoidable, as officers did not know the crib was in front of the door.
“All the information we had was that there were no children in the house,” he said. “All you can do is pray for the child, pray for the family, pray for the officers."
The toddler was treated by medics at the scene and then taken to an Atlanta hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma, the sheriff said. Hospital officials would not release any information on Friday about his condition.
The drug suspect, a relative of the child, was not in the house during the raid but later was arrested nearby, Terrell said.
The boy's parents told local media it could be weeks before they know if he will survive and what treatment he will need.
“He's only a baby, he didn't deserve any of this," the toddler’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, told Atlanta television station WSB.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio)