Police Destroy $580,000 Home, Don’t Have to Pay

photo of destroyed house and Leo Lech
Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post Via AP

Greenwood Village, Colorado, June 2015

Greenwood Village Police were chasing Robert Jonathan Seacat for suspicion of shoplifting two belts and a shirt from Walmart.  Seacat, in an attempt to evade police, ran into a house and barricaded himself inside.  (A 9-year old child was home but he was able to run out of the house without injury).  This started a 19-hour standoff.

Police Turn House Into a War Zone

Apparently police could not figure out a way to end the standoff so instead they escalated the situation to a ridiculous level.  According to the USA Today article:

“After Seacat, who refused to surrender, fired on police, officers brought 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.”

I understand that he fired at the officers but 40-millimeter rounds?  Explosives?  An armored vehicle?  Really?  We are talking about an urban area.  You may wonder why a little city of about 16,000 people even had all that equipment but they are part of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood Metropolitan Statistical Area.  It was a multi-agency endeavor.  The City of Greenwood Village offered to give the owner, Leo Lech, $5,000 to pay for temporary housing.  The home was last appraised at $580,000.  It was so badly damaged that it had to be demolished.

The Court Battles Begin

Mr. Lech filed a lawsuit against the city.  His attorney attempted to get Leo reimbursed for damages to the house by using the Constitution’s Takings Clause which basically says that the government can’t take property for public use without “just compensation.”  The problem is, they didn’t really take the property for public use so this was a stretch but there is no other remedy under the law.

Mr. Lech was able to get some money from his insurance company, $345,000, but not the full amount the house was worth.  Mr. Lech’s attorney, Rachel Maxam, felt they were lucky to get that.  According to her, “Insurance is for fires, floods.  There’s no ‘police blew up my house’ insurance.”  

Appeals Court’s Decision

Mr. Lech has been fighting his case and had already lost at the District Court level.  He pursued his case to the federal appeals court level.  Last week they made their decision.  The federal appeals court ruled against Mr. Lech, upholding the District Court’s ruling.  Basically, what was said was that the police can’t be worrying about property damage when they are trying to make an arrest to protect the public.  In other words, Greenwood Village doesn’t need to reimburse Leo Lech for anything.  Not one single penny.

How About a Little Common Sense

I understand that.  The police would not be able to do their job if they had to constantly be worrying about causing damage knowing that the city’s bean-counters would throw a fit at having to repair or replace anything they damaged.  But there needs to be some limits.  I don’t care what anyone says, this was massive overkill.  They went after Seacat with explosives and the equivalent of a tank!  How in the world can this be considered an appropriate level of force?

This is a problem that Greenwood Village, and any other entity that has a law enforcement agency, needs to address.  No one should have their home destroyed by the police and then have the city say, too bad.  But don’t count on them addressing it.  Greenwood Village released their official statement.  In it they quote a review of the situation that was done by the National Tactical Officers Association.  Yes, police reviewing police, surely there won’t be any bias there.  The quote said that the officers “acted in a highly commendable manner.”  What a surprise.

I’ve linked to two different articles in this post.  One is the USA Today article and the other is by NPR.  Both sites have additional information and pictures of the damage done to the house.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *