Friday, December 6, 2019

Like A Really Bad Joke

12/3/19 Forbes:
Leo Lech’s home was destroyed. The windows and doors were all blown out, glass strewn inside and outside. But it wasn’t an act of God, it was an act of the local police department.
Mind you, no one in the household had committed a crime. Instead, a suspect on the run fled there randomly. He’d been chased by police for miles after stealing a shirt and two belts from a local Walmart.

With the suspect armed and ignoring police communications, the SWAT team of the Greenwood Village Police Department in Colorado started systematically taking out windows and doors using explosives and an armored vehicle. They fired tear gas canisters into the home. At one point they used a robot to throw a cell phone to the suspect. After 15 hours, they entered the house to find the shoplifter holed up in the bathroom with a stash of drugs.
 The occupants of the home were Leo Lech’s son, the son’s girlfriend, and her 9-year old son, who now found themselves homeless. In apprehending a suspect wanted for a few dollars’ worth of goods, the police did damage costing Lech $400,000. While insurance covered some of the home repairs, it didn’t cover the full amount of the value of the home or personal possessions, and today, nearly five years later, Lech is still paying the loans he had to take out to repair the massive damage done by the local police department. And just recently, a federal appeals court ruled that he couldn’t be compensated for his loss under the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
The city's press release gives a rather different picture that makes Lech sound like someone trying to take advantage of a bad situation for financial gain.  The Institute for Justice is a libertarian organization that tends to portray "bad government" in situations that might look a bit different if viewed from a less ideological perspective.

3 comments:

Unknown said...

While I consider the town to be in the wrong here for lack of compensation, you have presented a very distorted picture of events.

The chap was homicidal - both in his driving of vehicles in making his initial escape and in his shooting at officers from the house. To present it as merely an attempted arrest for shoplifting is bizarre:

From Greenwood Village:
This case was not about a shoplifter. As explained in the Tenth Circuit’s well-reasoned opinion, this case
concerned a high-risk, barricaded suspect incident that occurred in Greenwood Village, wherein the Greenwood
Village Police Department was faced with an armed suspect, who was wanted on multiple felony arrest
warrants, had tried to run an officer over with a vehicle, who had shot at police officers multiple times, who had
barricaded himself in the Lech’s rental house, and who had refused to come out.


https://greenwoodvillage.com/DocumentCenter/View/19290/Media-Release---City-Response-to-Leo-Lech-Ruling-Final

I think that the town should have reimbursed for the required repairs to the property. What the town did was offer the deductible after discerning that the property was insured and that the type of insurance would cover the damage to the house. So the house's owner was only not made whole because he refused the payment from the town. That he decided to completely demolish the usable foundation and build a much more extravagant house on a larger footprint is on him, and shouldn't be paid by the taxpayers, the perp, or the insurance.

I think that the town should have reimbursed the renters for their loss of personal possessions. And the renters (the son of the owner, along with the son's partner and her son) did not have insurance, nor would it likely cover police action even if they had it.

Even though the SWAT action was reviewed by all levels of SWAT professionals and deemed conforming to best practice for protecting safety of the public and of officers, I think it WAS too much, and I think the town morally (if not legally) has an obligation to both the homes occupants and to the house's owner.

Clayton Cramer said...

The article admitted the guy was armed. Pulling everyone out of the neighborhood and waiting for him to give up might have been more prudent.

Windy Wilson said...

When the Jury is instructed on how to calculate damages, they are EXPLICITLY instructed to NOT take the existence of any insurance into consideration. If that is the law for damages caused by one private citizen to another, there is no reason for the government to seek advantage by offering only deductible, and ignoring the effect such a large claim would have on the claimant's insurance bill for the next year and subsequent years.

Who told the city to offer the deductible when a simple question to the City Attorney would have cleared this up forthwith?