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Ohio police used flash-bangs during raid of home with toddler on a ventilator inside, body camera footage shows

Police in Elyria, Ohio, deployed exploding flash-bangs while raiding a home last week while a toddler on a ventilator was inside, newly released body-worn camera footage shows, and the mother says her child was harmed during the incident.

Footage from eight officers’ body-worn cameras was released Tuesday by Elyria Mayor Kevin Brubaker’s office, which has requested an outside investigation into the January 10 incident and how the search warrant for the home was obtained.

The warrant was served as part of an ongoing investigation involving multiple stolen guns recovered at a different residence, according to an after-action report released by the city Tuesday.

In that incident, two juvenile suspects were arrested and three guns were recovered, including some listed as stolen, police say.

A toddler's mother says he was injured when police raided the home she was staying in with flash-bangs. - From Price Family/WOIO
A toddler's mother says he was injured when police raided the home she was staying in with flash-bangs. - From Price Family/WOIO

Police believed stolen guns were also taken to the residence where the toddler and mother were staying, and the officers were searching for the weapons, the report said.

Later that day, officers entered the home with guns, a battering ram and flash bangs, according to bodycam footage.

“It was very fast-paced,” the mother, Courtney Price, told CNN on Wednesday. “I didn’t have time to process anything.”

Price was alone with her son when she first heard a knock at the door, and she thought it was her uncle, she said. But as she approached the door, she could see police officers through the glass.

“All I seen was lights flashing and smoke coming into the house,” Price told CNN affiliate WOIO.

Redia Jennings, Price’s aunt, told WOIO she and her husband have rented the home for the past year, and the person police were looking for has not lived at the residence for more than a year. His family now lives down the block, Jennings told the station.

The home was “the correct address of the search warrant,” the Elyria Police Department said in a statement.

Price told WOIO that her son, Waylon, has been diagnosed with chemical pneumonitis – a form of lung irritation – since the raid. Price said the condition was caused by inhaling chemicals released by the flash-bangs.

Waylon’s eyes, chest, arm and neck were burned and he experienced trouble breathing, according to a GoFundMe campaign created by Jennings to help pay for Waylon’s medical expenses.

Waylon is now in stable condition at the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, the health system told CNN in a statement Wednesday. Speaking to CNN from a hospital Wednesday night, Price said her son is “on the mend.”

Doctors believe Waylon may have inhaled smoke that wafted into the house or may have been pumped into his lungs through his oxygen machine, Price said.

Police said the devices “do not produce a continuous burn and they do not deploy or contain any pepper gas or chemical agents.”

“Any allegation suggesting the child was exposed to chemical agents, lack of medical attention or negligence is not true,” the police department said in its statement.

In the after-action report, police said “extensive criminal activity along with subjects involved” contributed to the decision to use a Special Response Team – which Elyria Police have described as being a SWAT team.

In the footage, police officers position themselves outside the house shortly after 2 p.m. and an officer shouts, “Police search warrant, come to the door!”

About 10 seconds later, an officer uses a pole to set off a flash-bang outside one of the windows, shattering it. Another flash-bang was also deployed in the driveway, according to the police report, which adds, “This method of delivery was controlled and intended as a deliberate distraction.”

Officers then entered the front door with a battering ram and encountered the mother, who exited the house with her hands raised, the footage shows. Her face is obscured in the body camera video. She is then handcuffed and can be heard explaining to police that the house belongs to her aunt and uncle and she is staying with them.

“I didn’t know what to do because there was guns pointed at me,” Price told WOIO. “I wanted to run to (my son) but I knew if I ran to him they could’ve shot.”

In one of the videos, the woman explains she and her child are the only people in the home at the time. She tells officers that her child has a pre-existing medical condition and is on a ventilator inside. An officer searching the home finds the child in a baby bouncer near a crib and the sound of medical equipment can be heard, video shows. The woman is later brought upstairs and talks with officers about her child’s condition.

Police said in their statement that a woman and her 17-month-old child were found inside the home. Detectives, paramedics and the mother “assessed the condition of the child, confirming that the child did not sustain any apparent, visible injuries,” the statement said.

Courtney Price told CNN affiliate WOIO that her son developed chemical pneumonitis after inhaling chemicals released by the flash-bangs. - WOIO
Courtney Price told CNN affiliate WOIO that her son developed chemical pneumonitis after inhaling chemicals released by the flash-bangs. - WOIO

“The child was hooked up to several machines and was a great distance away from the window that was broken,” the police report states, noting the child appeared “not harmed.”

The names of the mother and child were redacted in documents released by the city.

Jennings said while the teenager police were looking for hadn’t lived at the house for more than a year, police had come to the home about five times looking for him.

Property records obtained by CNN indicate Jennings lives at the address raided by police.

In one of the videos, an officer asks, “Is there just one chick in there and a baby?” and another officer responds, “Guess so. The target was at school.”

The mayor has asked the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the incident, as well as how the warrant was obtained.

“While the footage captured clearly illustrates what did and did not occur when the search warrant was executed, it does not answer questions of what led to the warrant itself,” Mayor Brubaker said.

Jennings told WOIO that the family plans to take legal action against the police department and are moving to a new home this week.

CNN has reached out to Mayor Brubaker, the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, and Courtney Price.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Athena Jones, Lauren Mascarenhas, Sharif Paget, Yan Kaner and Amanda Jackson contributed to this report.

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