A Colorado appeals court has ruled that a Colorado police department does not have to pay a man whose house they blew up to get at a criminal who was hiding inside.
In 2015, the Denver police chased a man accused of shoplifting through a suburban community when the suspect broke into a stranger’s home and hid there.
Police discovered where the suspect was hiding and after a tense, 19-hour standoff, the police used explosives to destroy the walls of the home so they could surge in and arrest the suspect.
“The interior of the Lech Home was a mass of debris and destroyed belongings from the projectiles launched into the home by the Defendants. Chemical munitions or other projectiles were stuck in the walls. The Lech Home was completely uninhabitable, and its condition posed a danger to anyone entering the home,” said homeowner Leo Lech’s lawyer in his filing.
But now a federal appeals court has ruled that the police don’t have to pay the innocent homeowner a penny for destroying his home.
The court ruled that the police are not liable for the massive destruction because they were acting to preserve the safety of the community.
The homeowner was utterly shocked by the court’s obscene decision.
“Under no circumstances in this country should the government be able to blow up your house and render a family homeless,” Lech told NPR. “This family was thrown out into the street without any recourse.”
Lech’s legal team argued that the destruction of his home was a violation of the Constitution’s Takings Clause, which says private property cannot be taken for public use without “just compensation.” But the court ruled that the police did not exactly “take” the home from the homeowner and that police have long been free of liability for property damage perpetrated during the process of making an arrest.
“As unfair as it may seem, the Takings Clause simply does not entitle all aggrieved owners to recompense,” the court wrote in its decision.
The Denver police did take the shoplifter into custody after blowing up Lech’s house.
It turns out, Lech’s house was destroyed so police could recover two belts and a shirt stolen from Walmart.
Lech spent $400,000 to rebuild the home. Denver gave the man $5,000 in compensation.
“You can’t be blowing up people’s houses,” Lech concluded.
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