Cops who blew up innocent man's house don't have to pay, says appeals court

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/10/31/cops-who-blew-up-innocent-man.html

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IANAL

But the problem with that argument, the appeals court ruled, is that courts have long held that police cannot be on the hook for property damage caused in the process of trying to make an arrest.

And the problem with that interpretation is that the police can only operate with the consent of the policed. Keep this shit up, and that consent will be revoked.

Besides, I suspect that the interpretation is based on damaging the offenders property, not rando bystanders.

And whatever happened to proportionality!?^ This did this for a shoplifter? What did he lift - the whole damn shop?

If you really don’t want the cops to pay because reasons, fine. The city pays - the cops were acting as their agents anyway.

^ it’s a rhetorical question. Militarisation of the police is what happened - give a man a hammer, and he’ll start seeing nails everywhere.

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So did his insurance not cover the damage? The cops went overboard here, but it’s not clear to me if he was on the hook for paying for the repairs. It seems like the county covered his deductible?

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He was shooting at the cops. The shoplifting was incidental. It’s hard for the cops to just leave the scene when the guy inside is smoking meth and shooting a gun out the window.

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There’s a looooot of daylight between “leave the scene” and “blow up the house”

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A shirt. Yeah, that’s proportional.

Wait the guy out. No need to blow the place up.

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Interesting that you focussed on the least compelling point.

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I feel violated just looking at it.

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I know it’s customary to write something funny or insightful in the comments on BoingBoing, but all I keep thinking is: this is so fucked up.

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the homeowner… isn’t entitled to be compensated, because the police were acting to preserve the safety of the public.

I guess in a strictly legal sense, the homeowner is supposed to be compensated by suing the shoplifter for the damages to his house, but that person probably doesn’t have $400,000.

An interesting twist in the full article is the statement by the city. They point out that he chose to demolish the house rather than repair it, and built a McMansion (pictured in the article) in its place. I think this guy is owed more than he got ($5,000), but it also seems like he’s trying to squeeze the government for more than he’s owed.

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They could have just waited until he runs out of meth and bullets.

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Yeah, they paid $5k for an insurance deductible. There are a couple of interesting points, though, that the owner is trying hard to gloss over that shows everything isn’t 100% as it seems. First, he doesn’t live there. It’s an investment property in a fairly well-to-do area (Greenwood Village), and he lives 35-40 minutes south (Sedalia). Second, his son, girlfriend, and her kid were living there, and neglected to get renter’s insurance (so all the property in the house is a loss). Third, he chose to demolish the entire house, foundation and all, and build a significantly larger one, likely in the expectation that he’d have a huge settlement coming from the city. He already got an insurance settlement to cover the damage to his fully insured house, and exceeded it by a couple hundred grand to go bananas on a new one.

To be clear: The militarization of police is absolutely a relevant problem and many other options (like, uh, just wait the guy out of the house) should have been considered. Making law enforcement liable for damages in scenarios is an imprecise and sticky solution, though, and there a lot of negative consequences/ugly scenarios to counterbalance what may seem like justice on its face.

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He’s shooting a gun out the window. The odds that he eventually makes a hit keep going up the longer you let him keep shooting (and it may or may not be a cop that he shoots).

Also he’s got running water and a house’s worth of food. Could be a while.

Also, pay the damn homeowner back for the damage to his house.

EDIT:

Ah. Well. At that point it sounds like the proper party for reimbursement on the contents of the house is the tenants, and for the value of the house itself it would be the insurance company since they already paid out.

Regardless, the police blew up a building. The city should be on the hook for it (whether via the police budget or general revenues).

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Indeed. Four-year-long legal battles rarely revolve around simple, cut-and-dried scenarios.

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I’m in Ontario and I can tell you that when I was a property manager, it was our units that got damaged when police barged through. The better officers would at least come talk to us first about obtaining a key. We could hypothetically have taken the tenants to the tribunal about the damages but the tenants didn’t have any money.

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He removed the entire foundation/substructure, which was unharmed, and local new reports that court documents say he spent $400k over the insured value of the house to scrap what could be salvaged and build a much bigger modern home. I know the area intimately, so here’s a before/after via google maps and zillow. Mid-70’s split-level before, quite similar to adjacent houses. Two floors plus vaulted ceilings and possibly new basement (with a noticeably larger footprint) after.



My guess: He lives 2 doors down from a $1M+ house that was built (relatively) recently, and is in a cul-de-sac of $500-600k homes that opens into a popular recreation area. He weighed the costs and decided he’d easily make a profit if he could build cheap to mimic the size/features of the new $1M+ place and sell quick. He built with the insurance money and took out a note for the rest, and the market took a downturn and now he A)can’t sell it, B)can’t rent it for nearly enough to stay above water, and C) is on the hook for the note and is trying to make up his losses.

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From what I understand the neighbor ended up with $70k in damages, and their insurance company wouldn’t cover it.

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Oh— I thought you were talking about Lech’s compensation, my fault for misreading! :slight_smile:

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It’s my mistake, my original post was incorrect.

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Greenwood Village is a typical suburb with lots of business parks and strip malls but mostly consists of wealthy/upper middle class family neighborhoods. As an independent city surrounded by other incorporated areas of Greater Denver, the police force there is super-aggressive to speeders and interlopers and couldn’t wait to use all those delicious toys they have sitting in their squad cars to arrest a suspected shoplifter.

It’s probably the first time they had the opportunity to use that tank outside of the annual 4th of July parade.

Stay out of my beach community Lebowski!!

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