As the investigation continues into the “no-knock” search warrant in Habersham County that resulted in serious injuries to a 19-month old child last month in Cornelia, people on both sides of the issue are making their voices heard.
People both opposing and supporting the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office gathered in downtown Clarkesville on Saturday afternoon, surrounded by a heavy police presence.
On May 28, authorities were conducting a “no-knock” search warrant at a home in Cornelia as part of a drug investigation.
As authorities entered the home, they threw a “flashbang” grenade in and it exploded, causing serious injuries to the child, who remains in an Atlanta hospital.
Those protesting the actions of the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office gathered at Clarkesville’s downtown gazebo. They came from miles around.
Shiri Crawford came from her home on Lake Hartwell to protest authorities’ actions.
She said she feels enough is enough.
“These guys are trained to do things with caution and they act like a bunch of boys that want to use their big boy toys,” said Crawford. “Now you have a child fighting for their life. This happens all the time, all over the country and I am tired of it. I have children. They have come into my friend’s homes before unwarranted. Thank goodness nobody was injured at those times, but I am tired of it.”
Protesters also called for an end to “no-knock” search warrants, where law enforcement agents can enter a home without knocking and alerting people to their presence first, and a general change in law enforcement behavior.
However, people just down the street were calling on people to support Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell.
One of those supporters is Nora Almazon from Habersham County.
She said he is a good man and a good sheriff who loves his community.
“He has done a great job here in Habersham County and that is why we live safely,” said Almazon. “I feel that it is a very difficult situation when you have children living in a known drug dealer’s home, that the parents put that child in jeopardy. It is a tragedy what happened, but it is more about the morals of our society. It is more about parenting. I am a mother of six and I would never, under any circumstances, live in a home that I knew was a drug dealership and also that the person had been charged with weapons.”
Almazon said the Sheriff’s Office was doing its job and following the law. However, Crawford said authorities should not have assumed there were no children in the home and that it is too late to say you will be more cautious next time.
Sheriff Terrell has said that authorities were seeking a suspected drug dealer, who was arrested later, when they entered the home and did not know children were inside, adding that officers followed protocol.
Protesters argued that the person authorities were looking for was not even in the home when they went in and also note that the individual was taken into custody at a different location without using a “no-knock” warrant, calling its necessity in the first place into question.
The GBI is investigating the incident at the request of Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brian Rickman to determine if the child’s injuries were the result of a criminal act.