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Police destroyed an innocent man's home pursuing a shoplifter — but the city won't pay any damages

'What happened to us should never happen'

Image source: YouTube video screenshot

In 2015, heavily armed police conducted an all-out assault on a home in Greenwood Village, Colorado, in pursuit of a shoplifting suspect.

The good news is, they got the suspect, and no one was hurt. The bad news is, the cost was the total destruction of a man's home — a man who had nothing to do with the situation. Now, after a lengthy court battle, a federal court has ruled the city doesn't owe the homeowner anything, according to The Washington Post.

"It just goes to show that they can blow up your house, throw you out on the streets and say, 'See you later. Deal with it,'" Leo Lech, the homeowner, told the Post. "What happened to us should never happen in this country, ever."

In June 2015, Robert Jonathan Seacat stole a shirt and some belts from a Walmart in Aurora, Colorado.

He fled the scene and found himself in a high-speed chase with police. He bailed out of the car, hopped a fence, crossed a highway on foot, and climbed a fence to find himself at the home owned by Leo Lech.

Leo's son, John, John's girlfriend, and the woman's 9-year-old son lived in the home. Only the child was home at the time. The boy told police that he heard the home security system alarm and came out of his room to see Seacat holding a gun and walking upstairs.

Seacat let the boy leave the house unharmed, telling him "I don't want to hurt anybody. I just want to get away."

He tried to steal the family car parked in the garage, but police blocked him by parking in the driveway. The situation escalated when Seacat shot at police through the garage.

Seacat barricaded himself in the home for 19 hours as SWAT officers attempted to get in the home, or to convince him to come out. Their efforts included gas munition, 40 mm rounds through the windows, plowing through the doors with an armored vehicle, flash-bang grenades, and explosives to take down some walls.

Crime Watch Daily: SWAT Stand-Off Leaves Home Destroyed www.youtube.com

Defending the destruction in 2015, Greenwood Village Police Commander Dustin Varney said, "My mission is to get that individual out unharmed and make sure my team and everyone else around including the community goes home unharmed. Sometimes that means property gets damaged, and I am sorry for that."

The city offered the Lech family some temporary rental assistance, but no other compensation for the damage. Lech said the cost to rebuild the home was nearly $400,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, and that the situation "has ruined our lives."

The Lech family sued the city under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, but that claim was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

"Because (1) the defendants' law-enforcement actions fell within the scope of the police power and (2) actions taken pursuant to the police power do not constitute takings, the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the Lechs' Takings Clause claims," the decision read. "We therefore affirm the district court's ruling."

Lech is considering appealing the decision to the Supreme Court.

One last thing…
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