EXCLUSIVE: Deputy indicted in flash bang case admits she missed warning signs

A former Haberham County deputy originally told GBI and FBI investigators she missed the signs that children could be in a house the night authorities set off a flash bang device during a drug bust.

Nikki Autry talked to authorities last year, shortly after an 18-month boy was seriously injured when the flash bang landed in his playpen. This week, a federal grand jury indicted Autry on providing false information for a search warrant.

The Habersham County Grand Jury originally looked at this case... called it hurried and sloppy... but failed to indict anyone. Instead, Autry is accused of violating the civil rights of the man she was trying to arrest.

"I had a bad feeling," Autry told investigators in a recorded interview obtained by the FOX 5 I-Team. "I thought we were going to go in and get in a shootout to be honest, with this information."

Yet when members of a special narcotics unit hit a Habersham County home around midnight May 27, they didn't find a low-level meth dealer protected by goons with guns.

Instead, the flash bang canister they used as part of their no-knock search warrant landed in the playpen of little Boo Boo Phonesavanh... burning his face and chest.

You can hear the reaction of deputies on their dash cam video.

"(baby cries) There's a baby in there... yep."
"(You don't believe that baby got hurt, do ya?) I don't know. He said code 3. Sounded pretty... yeah."

Turns out the man authorities were looking for -- Wanis Thonetheva -- wasn't even home. A situation they swore to a judge was so dangerous to require a no-knock warrant... turned out to be a family visiting from out of state sleeping in the front room.

Autry was the deputy who swore to the search warrant, telling a judge a confidential informant bought drugs from Thonetheva. But she later admitted the C.I. actually gave the buy money to a roommate who then bought the drugs, someone who had not been authorized by the department. Autry also relied on the informants to tell her about any possible children in the home.

"I said were there any signs of children there?" Autry told the investigators. "And they said nothing but a minivan."
"When you pull up you're not worried about a minivan. You're worried about these people over here who you think have assault rifles."

She also said she never noticed a child in the background of some of the Facebook pictures deputies studied while planning their arrest.

Autry has already resigned and surrendered her POST certification to be an officer anywhere else. This week, a federal grand jury indicted her on four counts of providing false information to get a warrant.

In a news conference, Boo Boo's mother showed off her little boy via Skype. He just finished his 12th surgery. She he'll face surgeries for the rest of his life. Habersham County reached a $964,000 medical settlement with the family, but more civil suits are pending.

"I don't want to sound mean... but she really ruined our family's life," said Alecia Phonesavanah about the former deputy. Autry will be arraigned next week.

Ironically, one of the alleged victims in the federal case: Wanis Thonetheva. It's his civil rights Autry is accused of violating with the questionable warrant in one of the counts. Thonetheva pled guilty last year on the meth charge authorities tried to arrest him for that night in May. He was banished from the county.

But authorities say Thonetheva didn't stay away long. Right now... he's back in the Habersham County jail... facing another drug charge.


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