DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A jury has returned a not guilty verdict for a former Habersham County sheriff's deputy accused of providing false information to get a no-knock warrant for a raid that seriously injured a toddler.
Nikki Autry was among the deputies serving the warrant in May 2014. Deputies tossed a flash bang device into the home where they thought a drug dealer was staying. The device landed in the playpen of 19-month-old Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh, leaving him with severe injuries to his face and chest.
Prosecutors said Autry was overzealous and had no respect for the people she was investigating. The defense argued that Autry was well-respected and dedicated and was made into a scapegoat.
"This was a tragic case, and a case that needed to be brought and presented to the jury. We are obviously disappointed, but we accept the jury's decision," said U.S. Attorney John Horn in a statement sent to FOX 5 News.
Autry was the only law enforcement officer charged in the case.
FOX 5's Doug Evans asked the mother of Baby Bou Bou: "How will you explain this to him some day?"
Alecia Phonesavanh's response: "That the government failed us. The government failed all of us and will continue to fail us."
That was how an emotional news conference ended following the not guilty verdict of former Habersham County deputy Nikki Autrey. A federal jury in Gainesville ended a week-long trial with the decision that Autrey had not violated the civil rights of Baby Bou Bou's family when she obtained the no-knock search warrant that led to a flash grenade being thrown in the toddler's crib. Autrey was the only law enforcement officer charged in the incident.
"That is sad. That is a very sad day. A very sad day in Georgia," said the family's attorney Mawuli Mel Davis.
"That is crystal clear that there were lies that were that were told. And for her to be able to walk away says to the whole law enforcement community: Hey you can do it and get away with it," Davis said.
The government accused Autrey of exaggerating the evidence that led to the search warrant. No warrant. No raid. No injury. They jury rejected that.
Baby Bou Bou's mother had a blistering attack on Habersham County law enforcement, accusing the deputies of racism for targeting her family and her husband who she said was from Laos.
"I was the only person untouched in that house when they raided it. Why? Because I'm white. Why did they target Laotians and not me? Because I am white. Why did we get a not guilty verdict? Because she is white. This is not fair and we will not stop fighting," she said.