A federal appeals court says a Colorado town of Greenwood Village is not liable for damage after police destroyed an innocent man's home during a long siege to arrest a suspected shoplifter who had randomly taken refuge there.
Back in 2015, a suspected thief, Robert Jonathan Seacat, ran from the cops and hid in a home owned by Leo Lech.
Seacat fired on police which resulted in officers bringing in a SWAT team that fired gas munition and 40-millimeter rounds through the windows, punched through doors with an armored vehicle and blew out walls with explosives and flash-bang grenades.
Almost every window in the home was destroyed.
Seacat was ultimately arrested and convicted on 17 felony counts.
However, Lech’s home was destroyed.The town offered him $5,000 to cover the damage and then condemned the home.
He says the ordeal “destroyed” his family life.He added “The way we were treated is barbaric. The whole thing is a debacle of epic proportions.The bottom line is that destroying somebody’s home and throwing them out in the street by a government agency for whatever circumstances is not acceptable in a civilized society.”
This prompted Lech's lawsuit, which has been winding its way through federal court for several years. Lech claimed the city was liable because of the Constitution's takings clause, which forbids governments from taking private property for public use without "just compensation."
A federal district court ruled in 2016 that the city wasn't liable. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed; in the ruling issued last week, three judges said police cannot be held liable for damage caused while trying to apprehend a suspect.
The judges wrote “the defendants' law-enforcement actions fell within the scope of the police power and actions taken pursuant to the police power do not constitute takings."
Lech did get a $345,000 payout from his homeowner's insurance, but he says that was not enough to cover the full value of the home, which was appraised for $580,000. And this payout did not cover the costs of demolition or the loss of other property inside the home.
Lech ended up having to take out a $390,000 loan to cover the costs of rebuilding.
Lech and his attorneys say they plan to appeal the decision to a full panel on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and could eventually take the case to the Supreme Court.