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Police Owe Nothing to Man Whose Home They Blew Up, Appeals Court Says (npr.org)
183 points by ryan_j_naughton on Oct 31, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 160 comments

> Authorities say the suspect stole two belts and a shirt from a Walmart. After he left the store, police say, he broke into Lech's house for protection and was firing at officers with a handgun. Eventually, SWAT officers entered the home and apprehended him.


> The court noted that if police officers "willfully or wantonly" destroy property, they can be sued in a civil tort case. Lech tried to pursue that legal argument in Colorado state court, but he was not successful.

Here is the real problem. Eminent domain is clearly not the right strategy.

But when a police department is so out of control that they damage a home enough to get it condemned, over a single armed man, and they are not considered to have acted to wantonly destroy property, our society is seriously screwed up.

Every day, these sort of toxic over reactions and abuse of power are making people think less and less of police power. Even those that the police do not abuse are starting to believe the "ACAB" line.

Police need to start admitting to being able to make mistakes, because when they refuse to admit to any error when they have made obvious errors, they look morally weak and we stop thinking they deserve any of the massive amount of power we see them abuse.

Precisely. The Police are keen to do little "viral" stunts like shooting hoops with kids or buying shoes for homeless guys (ok, fine things to do) ... but when it really comes down to stuff that actually matters - the countless killings and general misery they cause to minorities - they close ranks and put on a united front, and often have the audacity to play the victim.

This is why "ACAB" takes hold. They 100% get behind their shittiest members, effectively taking collective responsibility for them. I am really not sure what else they expect, really.

> On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with.

From I'm a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing http://www.vox.com/2015/5/28/8661977/race-police-officer

> general misery they cause to minorities

And also non-minorities. According to Scott Alexander the rate of killings per police encounter in the USA is similar for both black and white people.

What’s ACAB?

"All Cops Are Bastards" - It's to do with all individual police officers, who could be perfectly moral upstanding citizens, being complicit with an institution that has done terrible things.

It's more of a reaction to the idea of changing an institution from the inside.

It stands for "All Cops Are Bastards", and is a common graffiti tag.


It stands for "All Cops Are Bastards"

I think it's a little strange they'd even chase someone over two belts and a shirt... I wonder if they knew he was armed, since it was shoplifting and not like a bank robbery, but escalated though from there anyways.

Just really surprised they'd prioritise such low value items. I know I've heard in some cities like San Francisco, the police are so busy with everything else even cars being broken into or stolen isn't even a high priority. So the police are pretty much useless and only good for just to get it documented for the insurance company. Then, of course, you have to pay for a copy of the police report, and some or maybe even most places won't even accept credit, debit or even checks. Exact change only. Ideally, though no one should steal at all and in the ideal world, everyone who stolen would be caught.

My first iPod Touch was stolen in high school, and the police took a report. I even thought I knew who did it... The officer even asked me if I'm sure I didn't misplace it or lose it, trying to blame me I guess. I kinda feel like corporations are more protected than everyday citizens sadly. Maybe a Walmart in a city will bring more income than a single person though is the logic.

My brother had his phone stolen years ago from a gym locker in middle school. The thief was identified within a day and the phone confiscated by police, who kept in in an “evidence” lockup.

We tried again and again to get the phone back but they refused. We had to buy a new one. As far as I’m concerned, those cops stole my brother’s phone.

The police aren't interested in investigating low-value cases. However, with a suspect in sight they'll go after them even if it's low-value.

Then why don't they investigate wage theft? Googling around suggests that the cost to the US economy is about the same as shoplifting (and I'm guessing individual cases could be much higher value than shoplifting). When was the last time a battering ram was used in pursuit of a wage thief? Or when was one even arrested?

To answer my own questions, police do not care so much about the "value" of the target. Their behavior is much easier to explain once you realize that their job is to protect capital.

Wage thieves don't flee. There's no adrenaline-pumping chase scene, nothing to tunnel-vision. It's also much harder to see on patrol.

I doubt it's the lack of adrenaline being the main driver for skirting away from "white collar" crime. More likely, the analytical and time consuming work required, and perpetrators who are much more likely to evade capture and/or sentencing, through usage of lawyers, accountants et al.

Also, the victims of wage theft are less likely to be "well connected" sponsors of political careers, while the victims of larceny are naturally more often business owners whom are more likely to have a "voice".

How much wage theft is treated as a criminal matter vs a civil matter?

Furthermore, cops aren't exactly skilled at digging out such things. Wage theft is something for the department of labor, not the cops.

> the suspect stole two belts and a shirt from a Walmart.

A petty thief who stole $50 worth of merchandise was armed with a gun. That's your problem and that's what led to the overreactions.

The new rules people seem to be advocating for is you can commit low level crimes and the police won’t follow you, as long as you carry a gun. Which is crazy. The cops did nothing wrong blowing up that house as long as they were willing to pay for it. If they can’t pay for it they should have stationed some cops to wait him out. But armed fugitives need to handled lest they murder someone.

Not sure it’s my writing or your reading comprehension lacking. Elsewhere with sane firearms control (most countries?), petty thieves don’t tend to carry guns. Americans like to beat around the bush when the single worst catalyst for tension is lying right there in plain sight.

Mexico just called, they said they made carrying a single bullet worth years in jail. Rumor has it they have a serious armed petty (and not so petty) crime problem.

To refute my point on U.S. gun control, you point me to a country whose gun violence is almost exclusively fueled by guns trafficked from the U.S. Really strong argument.

Citation needed, because I'm calling BS. The Mexican government used to send serial numbers of weapons suspected of originating in the US to the ATF, but stopped after nearly all of those weapons were determined to have been sales to the Mexican military.

Cartels are billion dollar enterprises with shipping connections all around the world, to believe they're getting their LAW's and M249's from Billy Bob's Country Emporium is beyond ridiculous.

Why do they deserve massive power? That was not constitutionally mandated, it is local, state, and national politics related to drugs and motor traffic that seems to have given cops now more violence and also more ubiquity. What if police didn't have outsized reactions to recreational drug use or minor non violent offenses? What if they weren't getting their revenue from seizing assets and catching motorists for arbitrary speed tickets?

> Why do they deserve massive power?

They don't. We've given it to them willingly.

It has been granted to them by every person who has chosen to "outsource" dealing with their problems to the police. Loud neighbor? Call the cops. Something doesn't look right at the house down the street? Call the cops. Someone breaking into your home? Call the cops.

As a society, many, many of us have forgotten how (or even why) we ought to fight, defend ourselves, or interact with society. So we call the cops and go back to our Netflix or whatever it is we are doing that we don't want to be bothered with.

The dominant group has not only outsourced the 'dealing' but also outsourced the externalities to minority groups.

I'm coming from the UK perspective, so our police are less trigger-happy and mostly unarmed but certainly have a very dark side. Historically was more likely that the black / Irish / gay / minority-du-jour person ended up lying at the bottom of the stairs in the police station than a straight white person. (Edit: originally phrased in present tense)

Maybe the dominant group would be less happy to outsource it if they or their parents had also been on the receiving end.

> It's more likely that the black / Irish / gay / minority-du-jour person ends up lying at the bottom of the stairs in the police station than a straight white person.

Do you have a source on this?

The idea that an arrested person is more likely to be injured in police custody if they are one of the listed minorities in the 21st century in the UK is very surprising to me.

There definitely are still problems with the relationship of the police to black communities, especially in London, but the available stats don't make a clear case for it and the overall number is quite small: https://fullfact.org/law/bame-deaths-police-uk/

That discusses deaths in custody. I would like to highlight a specific issue of shootings:

> BAME people have made up about one third of those shot by the police since 2004, according to a third set of figures from the Independent Police Complaints Commission. These suggest 8 people from black and minority ethnic communities died in police shootings from 2004/05 to 2015/16, out of a total of 27.

> About 14% of people in England and Wales identify as black or minority ethnic, as suggested by Kiri Kwankhende.

(Americans are invited to consider that figure of 27 deaths from police shootings over a decade...)

I'm thinking of the past (which is well known) when we constructed the norms on policing. Those examples are certainly drawn from the past 50 years. I could have expressed that better.

However, although I wasn't necessarily talking about the present day, we do have to look at the historical context. IMHO police forces such as the Met need to do a huge amount more to convince us that they've stopped.

And my point was really that whether someone was beaten up by the police or their parents were, they are much more likely to consider the downsides of getting on the wrong side of the police than someone who has never met anyone who was targeted.

Maybe because we want justice and not just whomever is more willing to escalate violence to win. Without the cops, any criminal interaction just becomes who’s willing to shoot first.

You speak of loud neighbors? In my town a guy was just murdered a few weeks ago over a long running feud about a loud dog. The two homeowners had tried to settle it many times by fighting until one brought a gun.

Except that when you call the cops, you are escalating the situation to include a potentially violent actor. You might want justice, but most people just want help. Multiple times I can name the cops have been called to help and have instead shot innocent people.

Why should I assume someone is a rational actor? Why should I take the risk? I pay taxes for professionals who have taken training on how to handle these situations to take that risk. You might live in some nice friendly suburb, but when I saw my neighbor and asked her very politely if there was something she could do about her dog barking all night, her husband came out and threatened violence if I ever talked to his wife again. The cops are here to deal with people like that.

I do not live in the suburbs. I live in Flatbush. It is my experience that the cops are there to represent the State and it is the right of the state to use violence. We hope they only do it when it's absolutely necessary, but we all know that's not what happens.

Sure, call the cops if you need to interact with a violent person. A better solution with neighbors is usually to build a relationship with them when you aren't needing their dog to stop barking, so that when you ask for a favor (which is what that is) they are more likely to grant it. Sometimes, they don't. What do you want the cops to do about it? Shoot the dog? Fine them? You still have your neighbor.

I like how you carefully place me at fault and make assumptions, instead of the whackadoodle. I was friends with him, I helped him cut a tree off his house and put up a fence. And no, it isn't asking a favor to stop their dog barking all night long, that's ridiculous. It's asking them to uphold their responsibilities as people living next to other people. I offhandedly asked his wife in passing if there was something they could do about their dog and he lost his frick'n mind.

And what do I want the cops to do about it? Issue a noise violation. Shockingly, laws are made to handle these sorts of things. We don't all have to take a baseball bat, or bake them cookies and suck up to our neighbors into taking care of their dogs.

I've had bad neighbors before. Did the cops issue a noise violation? Usually they don't, in my experience; you just end up with a pissed off neighbor and the cops tired of coming out there. Then you still have loud, annoying neighbors and they're even less friendly than they were before.

I'm not really saying baking cookies and sucking up to your neighbors - that's pretty negative way to characterize my 'treat people with respect and try to be friends before you ask for a favor.'

Seems like you are saying you did just that, and it didn't work out. That sucks. You went through the exact process I'm advocating. It doesn't mean that rather than talk to your neighbors you should just call the cops the next time a dog is barking, though.

Wait what do you do when someone breaks into your house? Grab a bat and go fight them? That's an easy way to get stabbed or shot.

>> Wait what do you do when someone breaks into your house? Grab a bat and go fight them? That's an easy way to get stabbed or shot.

Right back at you. Do you seriously run away?

Is that your response to any situatuon that includes potential danger?

In a self defense scenario running away (if you have a clear and safe exit) is the best possible option. If someone is breaking into your house from the front, and you can safely exit the back - GTFO to safety and call law enforcement.

That being said, if your back is against the wall you have every right to defend yourself.

Depending in the jurisdiction, you might even have a legal obligation to try and get away as a top priority if you can avoid a potentially deadly confrontation.

While I agree, my main point was based on safety. If your primary objective is survival, the idea of grabbing a weapon _and_ moving towards danger is ludicrous (thanks media portrayal).

If you are in a life or death situation it might make sense to arm yourself and encroach, but if someone is breaking in your front door and you have access to an exit you are not yet in a life or death situation. Arm yourself and attempt to flee.

If you don't have homeowners/renters insurance, live alone, value your property over your life, and enjoy high risk life or death situations - then by all means charge on in. Just make sure you don't shoot your friend who you gave a key 8 months ago stumbling in from a night at the bar.

The you was italicized to indicate interest in what you would personally do.

I'm not asking for advice.

Well, I think I painted a pretty clear picture of what I would do.

Good luck with that.

If you have a loud neighbor you personally fight them? The problem here is not that police are carrying out violence that should be enacted by citizens. I think you have misunderstood the need for accountability, not self reliance when it comes to using force.

No, my point here is that a lot of people don't interact with their neighbors at all. I've had loud neighbors in the past and when I've had a problem gone directly to them and asked them to rectify said issue. They have generally complied.

The point is that if we were all better in "public relations" and de-escalation, we wouldn't need the cops at all. But if the default answer is just simply "call the cops" then people do feel attacked and they tend to get defensive.

If everybody was a first class citizen - sure, we don't need cops, but that is not the reality. It is easier to call the cops instead of doing "PR" with a chance for it to get physical and there are probably quite a lot of examples of just that.

That doesn't seem out of control. This man was firing at police. That warrants a SWAT response. You've got a very high risk of officers getting killed.

What is fucked up is that there's no law that requires the government to compensate the homeowner.

> This man was firing at police. That warrants a SWAT response.

Absolutely. And there is no reason they couldn't have cut utilities to the property, set up a perimeter, and waited him out.

One of the biggest problems with SWAT teams today is that they seem to feel that they have failed if they don't go in all-a-Rambo. Protocol should be just the opposite: the most successful missions are the ones where a cop never has to fire a gun.

Yeah, that would have been better, at least given what we know of the situation.

Maybe just let the guy run off with the clothes in the first place? The idea that we have to defend a corporation’s property rights at the level of a SWAT team having a street battle with a shoplifter is the height of militarized insanity.

Usually police don't even respond to shoplifting on that level. I'm not sure what happened here.

> starting to believe

When it is founded on hard evidence I think belief is not the right term to use.

> over a single armed man

Who's firing at the police officers and is in the same building as an innocent bystander, 9 year old boy. Seriously, this situation could've easily gone much uglier than property damage really fast.

Is it common for the police to resort to explosives and military vehicles to handle a single armed person? Or maybe they have just too much leftover military toys and are eager to play with them?

You’re being pretty cavalier with the lives of the cops. Why shouldn’t they use armored vehicles to handle some asshole shooting at them and starting a firefight in a residential neighborhood?

But there wasn't a firefight except for the police bringing the guns on a guy who was hiding in a house. The police already have bulletproof armor, shields, etc. There was no need to destroy a third party's house.

If your employer had an option available which could significantly reduce your risk of dying on the job, what would you prefer that they prioritise above taking that option?

A) The lives of bystanders

B) The property of bystanders

C) The cost of equipment

D) The aesthetics of equipment

Personally, say:

- Definitely A.

- B & C at some point if the cost/risk is above a certain amount...but what is that number?

- Never D.

It is preposterous to suggest that every other option would have created more risk for the police.

The issue here is not one of giving the police protection, it is one of misuse (to put it mildly) of the equipment intended for that purpose.

I agree with the use of force since the robber was armed, but in the end refusing any compensation is an awful choice that also sends the wrong message: next time make an attempt to trade with the robber but don't call the police.

Are they going to be held responsible for destroying the property?

> The boy, who was home alone when the gunman entered, was able to get out of the house safely.

Not to mention the safety issues of firing tear gas into the building, blowing out the windows and driving an APC into it if he wasn’t already out…

> Who's firing at the police officers and is in the same building as an innocent bystander, 9 year old boy. Seriously, this situation could've easily gone much uglier than property damage really fast.

Yes, it could have. The cops could have shot the 9 year old boy.

I'm not sure how you can see a man with a gun shooting at people and think the solution is more men with guns shooting at people.

I'm just amazed at how the theft of two belts and a shirt from Walmart escalated to the point where a house blew up. It's like something out of a comedy calamity movie.

How common is escalation like this during the course of law enforcement? (I'm hoping this is an extreme case?)

There more extreme cases:

>Who Pays When The DEA Destroys Your Vehicle And Kills Your Employee During A Botched Sting? Hint: Not The DEA


> The judge points out that Villasana also testified that he was "not aware" of any policy instructing him to notify the vehicle's owner of its potential use in a drug sting operation

Ah, ignorance of the law. Fine for them, not for you.

All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Reading through the article's comments there's one from "LegalBeagle" that criticizes the man's lawyer for using the wrong argument in the lawsuit, and instead should've filed the lawsuit as a violation of the 5th Amendment.

Luckily he must've gotten a better lawyer, because an appeal was allowed to continue under grounds the DEA violated the Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment:

> Because plaintiffs have stated facts sufficient to demonstrate that the government physically deprived them of property for the duration of the controlled drug delivery operation, we hold that plaintiffs have stated a claim for a taking compensable under the Fifth Amendment. We therefore deny defendant’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).


This may be an extreme outcome but excessive escalation by the police in America is also the norm. Look at recent encounters with NYPD in the subway over a man not paying the fare (value less than 5$).

>Look at recent encounters with NYPD in the subway over a man not paying the fare (value less than 5$).

For anyone interested in the truth: they were responding to calls of a man with a gun in the train car. This wasn't simply a fare evasion.

It's more fair to say it rarely happens and when it does it makes the news.

Have a link?

I think this is the video they're referring to: https://twitter.com/PopChassid/status/1187838293104304130

wat, is that for not paying the fair? that's utterly insane.

No, they were responding to reports of a man with a gun, the man fled the cops into the subway, they followed him there when he managed to jump on a train and evade the cops.

This video was them picking him up at the next station. They just stated the charge for arresting him was not paying the fare.

You have a man that officers tried to question who fled into a subway train and who is reportedly armed. You’re picking him up at the next station from a loaded train on a crowded platform.

Please with 20-20 hindsight spitball how you think this should have gone down?



That account (in the linked tweets) makes absolutely no sense. It actually brings up more questions than it answers. Since it's very vague we will just have to assume never once was the alleged gun found on the person they finally arrested or anyone else. It's of course unclear if he was actually the person "described" (as male, no further details given) in the report. And of course you'll also have to take the NYPD at their word in a prepared statement to the press as to the veracity of this report they allegedly received about "man with a gun." I wonder how'd they find this unrelated man without gun they ultimately arrested based on such a thorough description ... ?

If you want to make a summary judgement based on incomplete evidence, the only reasonable course of action is to assume the best of the person you are ruling against.

That’s how it works in a court of law, but I find it’s a good way to catch yourself when drawing conclusions based on speculation.

The video clearly shows a train with closed doors and large contingent of police corralling a specific train car and cornering a specific suspect. That seems to correlate well with an identified person who fled and got away at the prior station; they knew who they were going after, and had time to assemble a force to confront the person. Obviously the size of the force and the rapidity of response supports the notion that they thought the person was a danger and wanted to very quickly subdue them in a crowded area.

All in all it seems like a professional operation designed to be prepared for a worst case scenario and to try to control a situation with potentially deadly consequences if it got out of hand.

When someone is fleeing from the police and was reported to be armed, I would absolutely expect that they are going to take extreme precautions especially in a crowded space.

no, you're right. I was a bit too fast on judging. If they had reason to think he was armed, then I'm less uncomfortable. Thanks.

Yeah, though no matter what his supposed crime, the situation is still absurd. It's clear from the video that he wasn't a danger to anyone nor resisting arrest in any way.

I'm on my phone so it is a bit hard to collect the links as much of what I've seen has been from Twitter but if you go on there and search "NYPD subway" you'll find numerous videos and recent accounts.

>but excessive escalation by the police

No one can challenge the authority of the state and all its tentacles like a Giant Squid. Take common law (case law) which partly governs the 5eyes countrys, its a legal framework which are moving goal posts based on future events and decisions made by a judge or judges (ala UK Supreme Court for Brexit) which no one can predict except Dr Who travelling in his Tardis! Common Law sets everyone up to fail, so why doesn't the state recognise its own weaknesses and failings by insisting on tarring everyone with the same brush? I'm sure that person would have bought a ticket if their circumstances were different ala Eddie Murphy's Trading Places. We don't know the full in's and out, but only now with the help of technology can we start to learn what someone has been taught and understood learnt from various sources (parents, schools, peers, religions etc.) and then work out better if the act was intended or not. This relies heavily on medicine stepping up to the plate in order to quantify better our exposure to chemicals and environmental stimuli which control our decision making processes. Understand this and you have built a general AI.

It makes me think of Brazil(1985). Cops searching for a minor criminal blow up someone's home, ruin their life, and then disappear into a maze of bureaucracy and paperwork.

So your rules would allow people to steal as long as they use a gun and then shoot at the police? “Okay Fred, he’s got a gun and oh yep, he just fired at us, time to let him go. He really earned those belts this time.”

> 100 officers, 19 hours and a Bearcat APC

Man, when you have staff and resources, I guess you need to justify the bills. Instead of, you know, putting a couple units outside the house and waiting a week.

Those must have been some expensive belts and shirts. Though there's no way the use of force here is comparable with the value of items being reclaimed.

Somebody stole 50$ worth of stuff. Instead of letting insurance pay and calling it a day, lest waste a couple of hundred thousand dollars and fully destroy somebody's home for another couple of hundred thousand dollars in damages.

What should happen here is that whoever thought this was the right course of action should be fired, and liable.

You realize the suspect was firing at police officers? I am in no way defending the destruction of a home. However, I do realize this is not a situation where a couple of officers can be posted outside the home and wait the situation out. An armed suspect firing out of a home is a clear and present danger to the community.

edited to add quote

Who drives armored cars? People who expect gun-fire. Usually people with some fire-power of their own. -Burn Notice

"He was firing a gun at cops!" seems like such a lame defence to me. This is the US we're talking about, where someone can unload an assault rifle inside a school or a church and render the entire nation powerless, lest the issue be politicised. You don't see the cops rolling a tank through the school cafeteria to try and smoke the gunman out. Just imagining that is utterly absurd!

But this though... oh no.

A single guy with a pistol, in an area they could have evacuated, who would have inevitably tired himself out after standing off for the best part of a day, daring to face off against the almighty police force? Nah, you gotta go full Michael Bay on that shit. Bring out the armoured cars, explosives, tear gas...

There's literally no rational justification for this. The actual soldiers out in the middle east know better restraint than to go nuclear at the first chance. And they're dealing with people packing a lot more heat than this guy with his belts and a pistol.

> The actual soldiers out in the middle east know better restraint than to go nuclear at the first chance. And they're dealing with people packing a lot more heat than this guy with his belts and a pistol.

this is the problem: police aren't soldiers but have military-grade equipment.

Actually, I think assault rifles cannot be legally owned by civilians in the US. I'm not from, or living there so corrections are welcome but I remember that the Texas gunman had a special setup that allowed his weapons to fire in automatic mode, or something close to.

No. That is incorrect. Even fully automatic long-guns (think AK47, AR-15 with a full-auto mod) can be owned legally after paying for the license with the ATF.

Paying for a $3k or so license, have the ATF, FBI and whatever other alphabet soup agencies turn your history inside out, and then buying one of hundred few, $10k+ fully automatic weapons.

People who buy them don't go on shooting sprees.

Thank you for the correction. Kind of shocked though.

It’s only half true. New transferable fully automatic weapons have been illegal since 1986.

The few that are out there are collectors items costing upwards of $20,000.

So while it’s tecnichally true that if you live in a state where they have not been banned outright you can legally buy a fully automatic assault rifle in the US, they are extremely rare and expensive.

They can be retained by people who had bought them before 1994 them but buying one is incredibly difficult in terms of money and paperwork.

No. There is no federal “assault weapons” laws, they expired in 2004.

In most states you can purchase one, some states (CA, NY,CT) have banned them.

"Assault weapons" is a purposely misleading term designed to generate the confusion with "assault rifles" that you're currently experiencing. Assault rifles are indeed illegal to purchase without extensive paperwork and fees, and then only if the weapon itself was registered and grandfathered in before 1986. These weapons are heavily regulated and cost tens of thousands of dollars, despite being effectively never used in crime even at the time they were banned.

I originally wrote "assault weapons" in my comment then changed that to "assault rifles" because I'm fairly certain what the latter, is but not so much the former. Maybe the OP was responding to that earlier version? If so, apologies for the confusion.

Correct, but the National Firearms Act of 1934 which actually bans the sale of machine guns and other automatic rifles is still alive and well.

"Assault weapons" is a meaningless phrase.

Unless he had one of those drum magazine glocks, he'd have been out of ammo after 15-45 rounds (depending on if he had backup magazines).

They could have just parked the APC out front and waited a bit.

No need to crash it through the front door.

I agree, no need to destroy the house. But significant activity would be required to secure the neighborhood. There have been instances where innocent bystanders get shot.

I've never been shot at, but I suspect there is probably a very aggressive response that humans have to be shot at. A response serves well in most situations, not so much in this one.

I'd love to see more training for the police officers to help in situations, but I don't see tax payers wanting to pay for it.

My outrage really isn't at the police officers actions, but I understand being outraged about it. My outrage is at the courts. Although I do understand it appears this gentleman may have selected the wrong court.

> I'd love to see more training for the police officers to help in situations, but I don't see tax payers wanting to pay for it

I don’t think it’s more training they need, but different training (so rather than more money, it’s a matter of spending the money they already have differently).

A whole industry has sprung up of ex-military personnel and LEOs providing training which isn’t far off the sort of thing you’d get for a tour of Afghanistan; unsurprisingly when you train and equip people as if they’re going to a war zone they then act and use that equipment as if they’re in a war zone.

It’s worth noting that the vets I know are somewhat offended by that comparison because they had considerable training about use of force to prevent things like this — their commanders cared about the residents’ opinion of them far more than many police departments seem to.

Agreed. All my vet friends get pretty worked up about this topic, particularly the lack of oversight. Even if you're in an active war zone, if you raise your weapon (even if the person you're aiming at is holding a weapon), it goes in your after-action report and is reviewed by your superiors to see if your actions conformed to the rules of engagement in that scenario.

That’s a fair point! A better comparison might be with something like Blackwater, i.e unaccountable thugs with guns, or with a combat environment where there are no civilians to get in the way.


Just throw in a few canisters of tear gas and wait for the dude come out. Then open the windows and that's it. How they managed to blow up the house is ... insane.

And it took 19 hours? Why? He was using a handgun. Haven't they heard of suppressive fire? What the hell.

>> In fact, the court stated, when police are performing their public safety duties, they cannot be "burdened with the condition" that they pay for property damage.

But that sounds completely out of proportion in this case. Is it really that important for the safety of the public to aprehend a man who stole two belts an a shirt from Walmart, that it justifies blowing up someone's house walls and driving an AV through its doors? Isn't responding with such force a bigger threat to the public than letting a shoplifter go?

I understand that the man had a gun and barricaded himself to the family's house, but still the response sounds disproportionate and more damaging than anything the shoplifter could have done.

I read this yesterday, it seems apt:


The central task of the police, according to classical Foucauldian analysis, has been to thwart and foil the possibility of revolution, the possibility of transgressing the order of capital: “For the bourgeoisie the main danger against which it had to be protected, that which had to be avoided at all costs, was armed uprising, was the armed people, was workers taking to the streets in assault against the government.”

If protecting citizens isn't the first mandate of the police, then it comes as no surprise at the level of force that can be deemed acceptable as a course of regular action.

What’s strange to me about America is that if you watch or read crime fiction, it almost always agrees with the Foucaldian analysis. That the police exist to protect the wealthy and that the wealthy themselves are behind most criminal enterprises is beyond a cliche in this genre.

But at the same time, if you ask the average “middle class” homeowner (probably the primary consumer of this genre) about their perception of police or something like BLM, they’ll respond with the most naive platitudes and defenses.

I understand that identification with and defense of the ruling class is central to contemporary American culture, but I find this constant, screeching dissonance quite fascinating.

Crime fiction is not any kind of a measure of truth in America. It's naïve to even suggest.

Crime fiction and television strongly informs the self-image of people working in law enforcement though

you can watch this in the limit live in Chile as we speak.

If we were to distribute the costs across different parties, how could we do it, and who could be included in this distribution?

  - The suspect
  - Mr Lech (owner of damaged property)
  - Mr Lech's insurance
  - The police department / other involved agencies / city
  - The store from which the belt was stolen
  - Insurance for the store from which the belt was stolen
  - Individual police officers or superiors who made a call for an excessive reaction
I am sure this is not an exhaustive list, but expands it to more than Mr. Lech vs. the police.

As a mental exercise, let's sort this list by who should be responsible, using whatever metric. When I do it, Mr. Lech comes out on the bottom, regardless of what I use as the criteria. I'd be interested in hearing if anyone can come up with a way where Mr. Lech would be at the top of such a list.

Nit: "The store from which the belt was stolen" should probably go under Mr Lech - or at least equivalent.

I place it right above Mr. Lech. They were a victim. But they also had a minor amount of [well justified) agency in taking the first steps to create this situation--calling police for minor theft. I am not saying they are wrong in doing so. There are other ways of handling minor theft.

Mr. lech was a victim who was completely passive here.

I'd disagree. I don't know the policies of this specific store, but most merchants have policies against their own security trying to apprehend someone or calling the police while they're still on the premises to avoid the possible damage and bad experiences for their customers. Before I'd say they're more of a victim than Mr Lech, I'd at least want to know what they did to stop him.

"According to the Lechs, the defendants’ conduct amounts to a taking because (1) the officers physically intruded upon and ultimately destroyed their home and (2) such a “physical appropriation of property gives rise to a per se taking.” Aplt. Br. 9. The defendants, on the other hand, argue that no taking occurred because the officers damaged the Lechs’ home pursuant to the police power, not the power of eminent domain. The district court agreed with the defendants: it concluded that “the tactical decisions that ultimately destroyed [the Lechs’] home were made pursuant to the state’s police powers and not the power of eminent domain.” App. vol. 2, 399. Thus, the district court ruled, the defendants’conduct did not constitute a taking for purposes of the Taking Clause."


Yes, it seems important to note this court ruled on whether police actions violated the takings clause, not on, e.g., whether the police were justified in their use of force, or even if the homeowner should be compensated on some other grounds.

What's the point of the law if you can get lost dealing in technicalities at the cost of complete and utter disregard for outcomes?

Sure, everybody is technically correct. Loosely reminds of of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_many_angels_can_dance_on_t... -- people getting caught in admiring the cleverness of their arguments and forgetting what the whole original purpose was. Or when some gamers spending more time in the virtual fantasy world then in the real one, solving "challenges" there rather than here.

If you go to the court to get a ruling on a specific claim and the court rules on that claim, I don't think you can call that a technicality.

Now, why the lawyer recommended this line of action is an interesting question. My uneducated guess would be that there was precedent in favour of the police, and framing it as a constitutional issue was seen to be the best possibility.

As a whole, this entire thing sounds insane, of course. But the court did what they were supposed to do, it's the rest of this whole story that is messed up.

It's ok if the police does it.

Explicitly the opposite of what was said.

It says that this would not be permissible under eminent domain, but as the act happened as part of a strategic decision it is acceptable police behavior.

"It's ok if the police does it" is a fair summary.

> but as the act happened as part of a strategic decision it is acceptable police behavior.

No, they made no comment on whether that is acceptable. The court case was about "alleging violations of the Takings Clause". The court said that this clause does not apply in this case:

- (1) when a state acts pursuant to its police power, rather than the power of eminent domain, its actions do not constitute a taking.

- (3) any damage to the Lechs’ home therefore fell outside the ambit of the Takings Clause.

This does not say anything about it being "ok if the police does it" or even comments on whether it is okay at all. It just says that they sued over the wrong law.

> when a state acts pursuant to its police power, rather than the power of eminent domain, its actions do not constitute a taking

Isn't that moving the goalposts, though?

What this ruling effectively says is that as long as the state doesn't invoke eminent domain to take a citizen's property, then it's not eminent domain, even if the end result is that a citizen's property is taken?

I would much prefer a reading of eminent domain that says if a government invokes its authority to seize or destroys a citizen's property, regardless of its justification for doing so, then that's Taking.

I am not sure that is preferable.

If "a government invokes its authority to seize or destroys a citizen's property" what does it derive this authority from?

If it is from eminent domain it is allowed to do A but must follow rules B.

If it is not from eminent domain, such as in this case, the first question is not whether it has to follow rules B, but whether it is allowed to do A at all.

> If it is not from eminent domain, such as in this case

My point is that this _is_ eminent domain, because eminent domain should be defined by the action (government taking control of private property) not the purported intention.

>when a state acts pursuant to its police power, rather than the power of eminent domain, its actions do not constitute a taking

It's not taking if done under police action, or "it's OK if the police do it."

>It just says that they sued over the wrong law.

Is there some clause in the police action laws that makes them liable for damages? You would think they would have just sued them under that clause after the first trial rather than try to make the appeals court consider it "taking."

> Authorities say the suspect stole two belts and a shirt from a Walmart. After he left the store, police say, he broke into Lech's house for protection and was firing at officers with a handgun. Eventually, SWAT officers entered the home and apprehended him.

So Lech's house was 100% destroyed as a result. Now that is a lot of damage over two stolen belts and a shirt.

> In an attempt to force the suspect out, law enforcement blew up walls with explosives, fired tear gas and drove a military-style armored vehicle through the property's doors.

Even if the shoplifter was armed and firing at officers, their response looks slightly disproportionate. The interesting bit here is that they didn't kill him.

> The suspect in the case, who was wanted in connection with shoplifting, was taken into custody after a 19-hour standoff. More than 100 officers from agencies around the Denver area responded to the incident.

OK, then.

> "As unfair as it may seem, the Takings Clause simply does not entitle all aggrieved owners to recompense," the appeals court wrote.

Yes, it totally reads like a joke.

> "There needs to be a line drawn for what police departments can do and what they need to do to compensate citizens for this kind of damage," Lech said. "I didn't want to sue anyone for millions. I just wanted fair market value for my house."

That seems reasonable. If the police forces are not responsible, can a case be held against the shoplifter to pay those damages? Not that it would be in any way more realistic given that he is insolvent, but the lawyers should try every route.

There was a similar, though less spectacular, case in the UK, in which the police spent more on lawyers successfully defending the case than it would have cost to compensate the person whose door they had smashed down in the middle of the night because they had incompetently got the wrong address.

Establishing precedent is important, especially in common law jurisdictions.

Not causing the general public to fear and mistrust the police is even more important.

Wouldn’t law enforcement getting away with crimes cause fear? It seems like it would show they are above the law and can act like bullies without repercussions.

Admitting a mistake and trying to make it right will gain trust.

Yes that is what I was saying.

too late

Depends on the country.

I wonder how that squares with the Peelian principles, policing by consent, in the UK. Do you have a reference?

According to coverage by The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/10/30/police-blew...

“His expenses to rebuild the house and replace all its contents cost him nearly $400,000, he said. While insurance did cover structural damage initially, his son did not have renter’s insurance and so insurance did not cover replacement of the home’s contents, and he says he is still in debt today from loans he took out.“

Sounds like his family was under-insured and he took out huge loans to rebuild without any assurances that he would be compensated by the city.

I agree that he was underinsured, but if he were properly insured, I’d expect the insurance company to sue to the police department. The police department should be self insured by the city, which then causes citizen outrage over increased taxes, which then causes politicians to reign in the out of control police force.... at least that’s how the control system should work.

Another sign of authoritative police state with absolute power over citizens. We allowed this through the people we elected. Shame.

Either this is from an 80s cop movie about a renegade cop or it is a scene from a police state. EDIT: This is also a symptom of militarization of police. How would they even have the means to damage a house like this otherwise

There’s an interesting lack of nuance in the decision, perhaps due to the path taken by the plaintiff.

We all pay a price for police work (taxes, of course, plus some inconvenience At times). But this ruling says there neeed not be feedback to determine proportionality.

Some crimes are not worth addressing. We could put automatic speeeding enforcers in every car, but we don’t. Famously we could eliminate passenger risk on air flights by forcing everybody to fly naked with no hand luggage, strapped to the seats, but people aren’t interested in that much security. Surrender in warfare is a cost/benefit decision.

But, particularly in the US, the feedback loops at all levels (determining what’s a crime, what punishment is worth enforcing, which offenses are worth prosecuting, etc) runs open loop, with the obvious result.

Him having build a nicer house has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with his reasonably asking compensation for the insane amount of damage police irresponsibly did to his house (using military weapons to blowing multiple giant holes in the side of it, rendering it uninhabitable) in the pursuit of some idiot that stole a chinese made tee-shirt worth at most $7.

The police posting photos of his new house is disingenuous and irrelevant and has nothing to do with the fact that morally they should compensate him for the destroyed previous house at fair market value. That the law apparently does not require them to do so only means the law is without meaning and deserves only contempt from any rational ethical person.

This is bad, but it isn't that surprising. There are some very old cases that are precedent for it, things like (very relevant today) public authorities destroying buildings to serve as a firebreak.

Classic case: Surocco v. Geary, from the middle of the 19th century. Those of you who are in SF may recognize the name of the defendant. https://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/evidence/evidence-keyed-...

Being from N. Ireland, and seeing as US cultural imperialism reaches far and I know about all your stuff, police human rights abuse comes from above. We had the brutal RUC until the Good Friday Agreement. Now the police are completely reformed. Sort out the political side and the human rights abusers will no longer be able to work under the conditions.

One would assume that if the damaged caused by the police was justifiable, then the responsibility for damage compensation lies with the criminal suspect in the case - and if they're unable to compensate the homeowner then the remainder should come from the municipality or state's general victims' fund. Does Denver or CO have such a fund?

I wouldn’t qualify using military grade equipment in Colorado for stealing two belts and a shirt justifiable.

It wasn't for a belt and two shirts, it was for attempted murder of police officers. Yes, the interaction might have started with simple shoplifting, but the suspect began firing at police officers.

The home was destroyed after a 19 hour stand off with a intoxicated subject who continued to take meth throughout the standoff, during which the suspect continued to fire at police, and after which the suspect was apprehended alive. I'm trying to think of a more justifiable use of force outside of a hostage situation, but I'm having trouble thinking of one.

See https://kdvr.com/2015/06/08/greenwood-village-police-standof... for a bit more background.

Justification of an act does not relieve one from its consequences.

I’m sure no one will read that but a Reddit comment pointed out the Homeowners insurance is covering the damages to the house. The guys son was renting the house from his dad and failed to get renters insurance. The sons stuff is not covered.

PSA: Always get renters insurance. Flood, fires, vandalism, and I guess police damage can happen.

Came here to say this. Regardless of the specific facts of this case, the purpose of private insurance is to compensate individuals who suffer low-probability events like this through no fault of their own by spreading risk over a large population. If the police/government are responding to a legitimate public safety emergency I don't want them picking and choosing which property to damage based on their potential liability.

How about homeowners' insurance? That should be covered, right?

Often excludes official action like the police.

When firefighters damage someone's property to create a fire break (like say after an earthquake) should they also compensate that person after the fact?

Well, the state (or the municipality, or a combination thereof) should compensate in both cases.

Which in other words means that "everybody" compensates such a person.

Surely a strange case of overreaction and resultant destructions. But lets not draw enormous conclusions on 'some guys in Denver" or whatever.

Would the plaintiff have been in the right to defend his property from police abuse? Does the 2nd amendment mean anything at all?

Over two belts stolen from Walmart!? I’d pay for them just to get the police to not pursue.

the idea would be that the police contact the owner of the building before raiding it, asking if he would be willing to cover for the stolen goods?

Does insurance not cover this?

Only in part as the victim said he spent over 400K restoring he place.

It is only just

But, but - the house was coming right for them!

Before we get all crazy here, he decided to tear down the house on his own. It wasn't blown up. Heavily damaged yes? Salvagable, probably. Insurance game him money. He spent a bunch of money on a bigger new house.

It's like getting into a car accident and going to buy a nicer, more expensive car before the insurance comes back. Sure you can do it, but that's on you to pay.

It was condemned by the city. It was not salvageable.

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