Flashbang grenade injures and traumatizes children in Anthony, NM during FBI’s low level drug raid

ANTHONY, NM—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico condemned the FBI’s use of military grade stun grenades against three sleeping children during a 2013 pre-dawn drug raid in Anthony, NM. The lawsuit filed yesterday on behalf of the children alleges that the FBI agents, with full foreknowledge that the children were almost certainly present and sleeping in the home at the time, blindly detonated multiple explosive devices inside, which inflicted shrapnel wounds and severe emotional trauma upon the sleeping children.

“It is unconscionable that federal agents would detonate military grade stun grenades in a room where they knew children were likely sleeping,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Richard Rosenstock. “You can’t imagine the terror those children felt when they woke to deafening explosions, blinding light, and searing pain as armed men charged into their home. It was cruel, unnecessary, and recklessly endangered the safety of three innocent children.”

The lawsuit states that FBI agents were executing a search warrant stemming from an investigation of the childrens’ father, Abel Romero Sr., who they suspected of being a street level drug dealer. Romero, who had sole custody of his three children, ages 9, 10, and 12 at the time, lived with them in a trailer home along with his mother, sister and stepfather. The complaint alleges that through conversations with informants and surveillance of the trailer, FBI agents were fully aware that minor children lived in the trailer, and made no attempt to determine where they slept before deploying explosives inside the home. Furthermore, the complaint alleges that Romero often left the trailer and could have easily been arrested away from the children before agents initiated a search of his home.

At approximately 5:00 AM on May 8, 2013, the SWAT Team defendants conducted a military style, no-knock entry into the trailer, using an explosive device to blow apart the living room door where the three children lay sleeping. The plaintiffs allege that agents then threw multiple stun grenades into the house, which detonated near the children. Ten-year-old plaintiff A.R. Jr., who was sleeping on a couch facing the door, received shrapnel wounds to his head and shoulder from either the door or the grenades.   Had he been sleeping on his opposite side, he would likely have been blinded or worse.  After the SWAT Team’s entry, Twelve-year-old plaintiff F.R. was made to exit the house barefoot over broken glass and shrapnel, cutting her foot. All three children suffered severe emotional trauma from the experience.

“These are the wages of the failed war on drugs and rampant police militarization,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “This is not the first time that officers armed like soldiers have injured innocent, sleeping children with stun grenades during a low-level drug raid, and if we continue along our current course it won’t be the last. We must demand that our leaders treat drug use as a public health problem, rather than a war to be fought by militarized police with children as collateral damage.”

The lawsuit filed by Rosenstock seeks punitive damages on behalf of the plaintiffs for the physical injury and severe emotional trauma inflicted by the raid.