A federal appeals court has ruled the homeowners of a Greenwood Village, Colo., house blown to pieces after a SWAT team attempted to get a shoplifting suspect out of it are entitled to absolutely no compensation from the city.
The homeowner, Leo Lech, was left with a blown-out shell of a house after a suspected Walmart shoplifter, Robert Jonathan Seacat, ran into the house trying to avoid the police, reports the Washington Post:
Projectiles were still lodged in the walls. Glass and wooden paneling crumbled on the ground below the gaping holes, and inside, the family’s belongings and furniture appeared thrashed in a heap of insulation and drywall. Leo Lech, who rented the home to his son, thought it looked like al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s compound after the raid that killed him.
The June 2015 incident was long and drawn out, according to the Post, leaving the home in such disrepair it had to be condemned.
For 19 hours, the suspect holed up in a bathroom as a SWAT team fired gas munition and 40-millimeter rounds through the windows, drove an armored vehicle through the doors, tossed flash-bang grenades inside and used explosives to blow out the walls.
For his pain, the city offered a mere $5,000—less than the cost of his luxury leather sectional sofa—which would be needed to go toward temporary rental assistance and the insurance deductible. For their losses, the Lech family would receive nothing.
After Lech sued the city, a three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled on Tuesday that the family is not entitled to any more money from the city, writing that since the police were trying to enforce the law when they destroyed the Lech home, eminent domain doesn’t apply.
The Lechs had sued under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, which guarantees citizens compensation if their property is seized by the government for public use. But the court said that Greenwood Village was acting within its “police power” when it damaged the house, which the court said doesn’t qualify as a “taking” under the Fifth Amendment. The court acknowledged that this may seem “unfair,” but when police have to protect the public, they can’t be “burdened with the condition” that they compensate whomever is damaged by their actions along the way.
Yes, wow, how dare police need to do what most every working person in America needs to do—which is compensate someone if they literally blow up their home (while on the job).
Predictably, Greenwood Village was a fan of the ruling, telling the Post that it gave the Lechs the meager amount because they were “very well insured.”
Lech said rebuilding the house and replacing its furnishings cost nearly $400,000 alone—an endeavor that required Lech to take out loans. He is still in debt to this day, he says.
Meanwhile, the Walmart shoplifting suspect the police spent 19 hours bombing out of an innocent person’s home reportedly stole a shirt and a couple of belts, according to a police affidavit (he did also attempt to run over a police officer blocking him as he attempted to flee).
Lech said he will continue fighting the case, saying the police damage has “ruined our lives.”
“They proceed to destroy the house — room by room, by room, by room,” Lech said, according to the Post. “This is one guy with a handgun. This guy was sleeping. This guy was eating. This guy was just hanging out in this house. I mean, they proceeded to blow up the entire house.”