I’m trying to decide what to think about this…

Fired up the ‘pooter this morning for basically the first time in two days, to find an email from longtime reader Mutti with a link…

A SWAT team destroyed a Greenwood Village family’s home. Now, a federal appeals court says police don’t have to pay for the damage.

During a 19-hour SWAT operation in 2015, police tore out nearly every window of Leo Lech’s Greenwood Village home and reduced much of the interior to rubble.

In some spots, the damage was so severe the wooden frame of the house was exposed. But the city won’t have to pay for any of the damage its officers caused, even though Lech had no connection to the shoplifting suspect who chose his home as a hideaway from pursuing police, according to a Tuesday ruling by a federal appeals court.

Yeah, the damage shown in the photos published with the news article is pretty horrific. The short version of the story is that the cops basically tore down an innocent family’s house to catch a shoplifter.

Regular readers know that Uncle Joel loves to hate brutal police tactics and their effect on innocent people and society as a whole. But of course the story has a long version…

On June 3, 2015, SWAT officers swarmed the Lechs’ home on South Alton Street in Greenwood Village looking for Robert Seacat. Aurora officers tried to contact Seacat earlier that day for alleged shoplifting, but the man fled and randomly chose the Lechs’ home as his hideout. Seacat also had multiple felony arrest warrants, Haas Davidson said.

For five hours, officers tried to persuade Seacat to surrender. Seacat fired at least one round at police cars outside the home and multiple rounds after officers entered the home.

Aaaand that’s when the cops sent one of Obama’s armored cars through the front door and went all Blitzkrieg, property damage be damned. I’m surprised Seacat survived to be arrested.

Okay, from time immemorial American cops have taken an extremely dim view of being shot at. Even I can hardly blame them for that. In a nutshell, if you take a shot at a cop you have just ordained yourself a very bad day if they can possibly arrange it. And with the help of all the military equipment even tiny police departments in tiny American hamlets found themselves gifted in the past couple of decades, the cops can dish out a very bad day indeed – and often will. Officer Friendly doesn’t work here anymore if he ever did.

I know where I stand on the question of whether extreme police tactics are a net good or evil. But here’s an extreme example of damage that, the State would certainly argue, wasn’t really the responsibility of the police.

Here’s the scenario: The police are quite correctly chasing a multiple felon, a needle-using druggie, for a minor crime. The criminal holes up in an innocent family’s house – that’s not a minor crime – and with the knowledge that he didn’t fool the cops he takes a potshot at them. For the better part of the day the cops try to talk him out of the house but he ain’t moving. The cops go Rambo on his ass. Question: Who’s really responsible for this situation?

The offended family is understandably upset about the essential destruction of their house, and so would I be – they’re innocent victims. They want somebody to pay for the damage, and there’s no point trying to sue Robert Seacat. There’s talk of going to the Supreme Court to get the city to pay up – the family has already lost in court twice. But the city wouldn’t be paying the family, the taxpayers would. And they’re innocent, too.

Maybe I’m just getting old. I can’t believe I’m saying this. But I’m leaning toward “shit happens.”

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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15 Responses to I’m trying to decide what to think about this…

  1. Ben says:

    Yep, Shit happens. You may as well ask for us taxpayers to compensate you for Mother Nature’s windstorm or flood damage to your house. (Oh wait, people actually do that these days. FEMA.)

    But isn’t this is the sort of thing that homeowner’s insurance is supposed to be for?

  2. Joel says:

    They did have insurance and it did pay up over $300K. But that didn’t make the situation whole.

  3. Malatrope says:

    I can certainly see both sides, here, but I agree with your conclusion. The only solution I can see for the homeowner is to not live where “shit happens” — otherwise, you accept the risk of this happening just as you would tornado damage.

  4. Dan says:

    No, I think the city needs to pay up, and the taxpayers should ensure that every cop involved, from Johnny Beatwalker to the Chief gets fired.
    Their behavior went WAY beyond what was necessary, or even logical, to apprehend the criminal.
    How long before the solution to speeding is to have them run your car off the road into a bridge abutment?

  5. Joel says:

    Oh, if they want to run the “warrior cops” out of town on a rail I’ll stand beside the road and cheer – and kick in to the tar and feathers fund. That’s a separate question from whether tax payers should be liable for the damage.

    ETA: I’d also like to put suing the individual cops for their excessive behavior back on the table. If there’s no consequences, they’re gonna play with their toys.

  6. Bear says:

    Well… thought experiment:

    Drifter swipes some eggs from your hen house. You chase him, and he holes up in Ian’s place. He even takes a pot shot at you and misses. Do you:

    1. Call neighbors, shut off the power and water, wait for him to come out and return the eggs, and turn him over to the cops?

    2. Ram your jeep through Ian’s front door, shoot the place up, and when that doesn’t work, lob in a bunch of 40mm grenades?

    Bonus Question: What does Ian do if he comes back from playing with exotic NFA toys and discovers you blew up his Fortress of Solitude over some eggs and a pot shot?

  7. Joel says:

    😀 Among other things, he’d want to know where I’m getting live grenades.

  8. Mike says:

    It could have been worse, the SWAT guys could have called in an airstrike…

    https://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/14/us/police-drop-bomb-on-radicals-home-in-philadelphia.html

  9. bmq215 says:

    I see where you’re coming from but I can also see a slightly different interpretation. Some of that taxpayer money funding a police payback would have come from those same innocent homeowners. So an alternate viewpoint would be that the police making people whole in these situations (with taxpayer funds) works sort of like a form of insurance. We accept that police action is necessary, so we agree that a portion of our taxes go for that, and part of that necessary policing means that we might be inconvenienced by said action, for which some of that money we paid in taxes should come back to us.

    Of course that assumes you buy into the whole “police are necessary so I agree to be taxed to support them” but when talking about average, present-day American society that’s probably reasonable.

    One could also see it as a way of limiting egregious police action. I.e. payback for damage come from the annual police budget, whatever that might be. Destroy a lot of innocent taxpayer property and you’re not gonna get raises/fancy toys/a new grill behind the station/etc. Frankly I’d rather have my money come back to me to pay for whatever damage some crackhead might bring down upon me than most other things it could be spent on…

  10. Beans says:

    As Joel pointed out, this is why the householder has insurance. If the insurance didn’t cover it, then the family was at fault for buying bad insurance.

    Seriously.

    The taxpayers shouldn’t pay. The police did their job, mayhaps a tad aggressively. A nice headshot and a cleanup of blood, brains and poop would have been better.

    Check your insurance. If you can’t rebuild 100% after a non-disaster disaster (hurricanes and tornadoes are wind-born disasters, you’ll always end up paying hugely out of your own pocket even with the best insurance) then you should expect to pay out.

  11. M says:

    Maybe a new Niche for Insurance Companies. Policy related to Police Presence? Call it a “Bearcat Rider” and make it affordable like Flood Insurance especially if you live in a “good neighborhood” where it’s unlikely sum dude stealing a belt and 2 shirts from Wal-mart might like to hang out.

  12. Norman says:

    Working from news reports here, which is always suspect, but…it appears the residents were renting from hubby’s father, who did have structure insurance, which paid the $300k +/- for rebuilding, but the residents did not have renter’s insurance for the contents they owned.

    Seems like, first, one hell of a hard lesson learned about 1) renter’s insurance, 2) reading the fine print on the policy (a fair number of insurance policies have an exclusion(s) for “riots, government action,” etc. which may extend to “police action.”
    And, I believe the only person home when the bad guy entered was the renters’ 9-year-old son, who – very intelligently – skedaddled ASAP when BG started waving a gun around; IIRC, the BG gained forceful entry, providing lesson #3 about improving security of doors, hinges and locks.

    I’ll agree that, as a beleagured taxpayer, I ain’t at all eager to pay for your sloppiness, lack of attention detail, basic incompetence and omissions of procuring insurance (see: Wayne, John: “Life is hard; life is harder when you’re stupid.”)

    All that said, it appears the proper response would be to immediately shoot – repeatedly and accurately with a suitably effective caliber firearm – anyone gaining forced and unauthorized entry to one’s domicile and leave the taxpayers – and the @*%& cops – out of the deal until Cleanup On Aisle 3 was ordered.

    As has been said repeatedly and often “You are your own first responder.” Act like it.

  13. bill says:

    Coppers just want to find any excuse to use their toys. Why didn’t they wait the guy out? (eventually the egg thief will come out of Ian’s Cave & Joel hiding behind a cactus will get his shot) Or bait him by putting a box of good dope on the porch and when the varmit walks into the trap…bang bang from the marksman in the deer stand…you got him. Until the population gets tired of paying for the stupidity of LEO’s and the stupidity of most laws these situations will only increase in frequency. On another note, as boomers get older and younger people increase in numbers, the opinions favoring police and increased support of government sure does sicken me. So many people who need to go to the tattoo shop and get “SLAVE” printed on their forehead.

  14. matismf says:

    This is standard for Only Ones in the US:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_immunity

  15. B says:

    Nope. City, (or ideally) cops pay for the damage.

    If the Perp had done the damage, then yes, insurance. Since the cops willfully did the damage, and no one was in imminent danger, then they are responsible. Waiting and/or negotiating him out is one thing. Property damage is another.

To the stake with the heretic!