Police broke into an innocent man’s apartment to fish out an allegedly armed shoplifter and a court of competent jurisdiction has ruled against this decision taken by the police.
Greenwood Village Police Department had had shoot offs with the armed shoplifting suspect at the Lech residence. (Exhibit from Lech v. City of Greenwood Village), (Court exhibit /Federal court filings).
When they were finished, it looked as though the Greenwood Village police entourage had set off deadly rockets through the house.
Visible projectiles were still lodged in the walls. Glass and wooden paneling were seen crashed on the ground below the gaping holes, and inside, the family’s owning and furniture appeared deteriorated in a heap of insulation and drywall.
Mr Leo Lech, who rented the home to his son, thought it looked like they were highly classified criminals or terrorists in their own compound after the raid.
But now, it was just a neighborhood crime scene, their law abiding home where an armed Walmart shoplifting suspect randomly sought refuge after fleeing the store on a June afternoon in 2015 had turned into a war zone. For 19 hours, the suspect holed up in a bathroom as the highly armed police team fired tear gas and 40-millimeter rounds through the windows, drove a high-tech armored vehicle through the doors, aggressively tossed flash-bang grenades inside and used deadly explosives to disintegrate the walls.
At long last, the suspect was captured alive, but the home was completely destroyed and subsequently condemned by the City of Greenwood Village.
That left Leo Lech’s son, John Lech — who lived there with his long time girlfriend and their 9-year-old son without a home. The city refused to find an appropriate compensation for the Lech family for their losses but offered $5,000 in temporary rental assistance and for the insurance deductible.
Now, after the Lechs took a legal action, a federal appeals court has decided what else the city owes the Lech family for dismantling their house more than four years ago. And the response is, absolutely nothing !
A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit unanimously ruled that the city is not required to compensate the Lech family for their lost home because it was destroyed by police in their line of duty.
The Lechs had sued under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, which guarantees citizens compensation if their property is seized by the government for public use. But the court said that Greenwood Village was acting within its ‘police power’ when it destroyed the house, which the court said doesn’t fall under a “taking” under the Fifth Amendment. The court acknowledged that this may not seem fair but when police have to protect the public, they can’t be “burdened with the condition” that they compensate every time.
In summary, the police authorities are not liable to any damages caused in their line of duty.
As at now, the Lechs’ Greenwood Village home has been rebuilt. Lech says he wants to continue the legal battle but intends to do so as long as he is able. He is with the opinion that he has too much bad luck to make it to the Supreme Court but believes that someone else like him will get there.
“This can’t go on in this country,” he said. “There has to be a limit. There has to be accountability”, he lamented.
Have you encountered such an experience before?