The use of flash grenades by police officers during drug raids is becoming increasingly common across the US, and there are terrifying consequences like severe burns and dismemberment, a ProPublica investigation revealed.
The supposedly nonlethal explosive devices, known as flashbangs or stun grenades, produce a blinding flash of light and a loud “bang” that temporarily blinds and deafens anyone standing in their path. They cost around $US50 and were first invented in the 1970s to disorient criminals in hostage situations. Last week, French special forces used flashbangs to free hostages held at a kosher supermarket in Paris.
While sometimes useful during a hostage crisis, flashbangs are more often used as a quick solution by cops who don’t necessarily need them.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, police used flash grenades on 84% of raids between 2011-2013, according to ProPublica. Almost every time, the most that was found was a small bag of marijuana and some beer bottles.
The NYPD heavily curbed the use of flashbangs, after a Harlem woman died of a heart attack in 2003 when cops mistakenly raided her apartment with one of the devices.
As it turns out, the explosion of these grenades directly on a human body has caused severe injury — and death — on more than one occasion, according to the ProPublica investigation.
The powder from the grenade’s explosion burns hotter than lava. One woman who spoke to ProPublica said she suffered second-degree burns across her body after police looking for drugs threw three grenades into her boyfriend’s home when they were sleeping.
The flashbangs can sever hands and fingers, induce heart attacks, burn down homes and kill pets, the investigation found, and there are few checks on officers who want to use them.
In May of last year, a 19-month-old toddler was critically injured in Atlanta when police looking for methamphetamine launched a flashbang into the playpen where he was sleeping. The grenade “blew open his face and his chest,” his mother told theAtlanta Journal-Constitution.
In November, a 2-year-old boy was hospitalized with severe burns after police in California threw a flashbang into his room during a raid on the wrong home, according to Courthouse News.
The grenades can be lethal, too. A 9-year-old girl in Detroit was killed in 2010 after a grenade launched through her window by police landed on her blanket and set it on fire.
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