It blew a hole through the side of the ‘pen and “ripped open” the baby’s face, as his mother put it. He’s in the burn unit right now in a medically induced coma. The police swear they had no idea there was a child in the home, a claim supported by the fact that the baby didn’t actually live there. He and his mother were staying in the home after their own house burned down; the alleged drug dealer (who’s unrelated to the boy) lives there and, if the cops’ informant is to be believed, sells meth out of the living room.

Meth’s not the only thing cops expected to find there.

“We had prior information on it,” Terrell said of the circumstances of the home and its occupants. “The individual had been involved in an altercation with another male involving a possible AK-47 [rifle] several months ago, and he was arrested on some weapons charges. Supposedly that was about drugs.”…

“When we did surveillance on the house, there were two guards standing guard at the door … like they weren’t letting anybody in,” Terrell said. “We did make the buy out of the house. We took that information, along with our other information, and went to see the judge and got a warrant.”…

“According to the confidential informant, there were no children,” Terrell said. “When they made the buy, they didn’t see any children or any evidence of children there, so we proceeded with our standard operation.”

A local magistrate issued a “no-knock warrant” to raid the house, partly because of the info linking the suspect to “assault-type weapons.” When the cops got there and tried to open the door, they felt something blocking it so they tossed in a flash-bang. The obstacle turned out to be … the playpen, with the baby inside. Here’s a photo of the aftermath, if you can stomach it. The suspect wasn’t even there; they picked him up later at another residence.

Negligence or tragic accident? Patterico, a prosecutor by trade, puts it this way:

Don’t treat this like the cops intended this. They didn’t. When the story says deputies are distraught over this, I believe it. Cops don’t go into law enforcement to hurt small children.

But look: if you use stun grenades in the service of a no-knock warrant like this, tragedies like this are going to happen. The question that police (and members of the public who pay the police) have to ask themselves is this: is it worth this kind of risk to arrest people for the crime in question? If the crime is murder, you might have one answer. If the crime is selling drugs, you might have another.

Indeed. What’s the threshold for using a flash-bang sight unseen, knowing that anything and anyone could be behind that door? Selling meth might not meet that threshold, but maybe the possibility of an AK-47 being pointed at you when the door swings open does. What I want to know is, how would they have approached this if they did have reason to believe a child was there? No flash-bangs, obviously, which means a greater risk for the cops, but would you rather have cops take the extra risk or a 19-month-old who’s asleep in his crib? That’s what this case is about. How much extra danger should the police reasonably be expected to expose themselves to in the name of avoiding terrible crossfire accidents like this one?

Exit quotation from the sheriff, guaranteed to inflame supporters and opponents of the war on drugs: “The person I blame in this whole thing is the person selling the drugs… They are no better than a domestic terrorist, because they don’t care about families – they didn’t care about the family, the children living in that household – to be selling dope out of it, to be selling methamphetamine out of it. All they care about is making money.”