Greenwood Village, CO – By refusing to hear a tragic case in which police officers in Greenwood Village, Colorado, destroyed a private residence while pursuing a suspected shoplifter the Supreme Court has seemingly granted police new powers for which they will not be held accountable. They can now apparently completely destroy your home and they will not have to pay for it. That’s what happened to Leo Lech’s home in 2015 after a shoplifter — accused of stealing a shirt — illegally entered his home, forcing Greenwood Village SWAT to go room by room ransacking the place with explosives.
Last year, as TFTP reported, a federal court refused to grant the homeowners any compensation. This was in spite of the fact that the family had no connection to the theft, never allowed the thief in their home, and broke no law prior to police destroying their home. After receiving this news in October, the family held out hope for their chances in the Supreme Court.
This week, however, all those chances turned to ash as the land's highest court refused to even hear their case.
As Reason points out, this is despite the fact that the Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment is supposed to protect citizens from having their property taken or destroyed by the government without being justly compensated for that loss.
So much for that pesky piece of paper called the Constitution....
"The simple rule of the Constitution is that the government cannot arbitrarily single out private citizens to bear the costs of something that should rightly be the burden of society as a whole," said attorney Jeffrey Redfern of the Institute for Justice, the public interest law firm that represented the Lechs, in a statement. "If the government requires a piece of property to be destroyed, then the government should pay for it—and that's just as true regardless of whether the people doing the destroying are the local school board or the local police."
The 19-hour standoff ended with the suspect being taken into custody, but not before the home, as TFTP previously reported, was destroyed. The place looked like it was hit with a bulldozer. None of the windows were intact, and the doors were blown off their hinges. The Lech family’s possessions were completely destroyed, left in tatters after the SWAT team showed no concern for the home nor its belongings. According to the DailyMail:
Greenwood (police) fired gas munition and 40-millimeter rounds through the windows of his home in the June 2015 standoff with the shoplifter who had barricaded himself inside. Cops even went as far as driving an armored vehicle through the doors, tossed flash-bang grenades inside and detonated explosives in the walls of the property.
Initially, the Lech family was offered $5,000 in housing assistance and insurance deductible compensation, a far cry from what it would take to simply raze the home, let alone rebuild it. Leo Lech sued the city, but the court ruled what happened to the home did not amount to eminent domain and was simply a result of a police matter. Therefore, the city was under no obligation to condemn the home nor rebuild it. In other words, apart from the $5000, Lech was getting nothing else. Lech commented in 2015:
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If you look at the photos of Osama Bin Laden’s compound, I would say his house looks better than mine does.
In 2017, after being offered the $5,000, Lech had this to say.
If you take private property for the public good, you have to pay the owner just compensation. $5,000 is not just compensation.
Lech appealed the decision to a higher court but in October was denied, yet again. His last hopes were crushed this week as the Supreme Court refused to hear his case.
Sadly, it wasn't only Leo who was affected by this government-sanction destruction of private property.
Leo Lech was renting the destroyed home to his son John, his girlfriend, and their son. Far from being a tenant in a rental home, when police destroyed all of John’s possessions along with his dwelling, he says he was forced to live with his parents, find another job, and force his son to attend another school. The chaos which ensued from the SWAT melee which included an estimated 50 officers, truly caused the family an enormous amount of discomfort the family says. And, rightfully so, they are upset, to say the least. On Tuesday, Lech told the Washington Post:
It just goes to show that they can blow up your house, throw you out on the streets and say, ‘See you later. Deal with it,’...What happened to us should never happen in this country, ever.
“Property rights are the foundation of our rights,” said IJ President and General Counsel Scott Bullock. “The court’s ruling that government officials can purposefully destroy someone’s home without owing a dime in compensation is not just wrong. It is dangerous, and it is un-American. The Institute for Justice is committed to seeing it overturned, for the Lechs and for the protection of property owners across America.”
It’s true America. We don’t know whether to categorize it as the effects of a Police State or Judicial Tyranny, but one man’s quest to get his home rebuilt by the very police department which completely destroyed it with grenades, explosives, gas canisters, battering rams, and an armored personnel carrier (typically used by the military), ended in defeat.
In the land of the free, the cops can now destroy your home completely and you’ll be left to pick up the pieces.