An armed man suspected of shoplifting a shirt and two belts from a Walmart fled the scene on a June afternoon in 2015 and ended up barricading himself inside Leo Lech's Greenwood Village, Colorado, home. The suspect was captured alive—after 19 hours during which a SWAT team drove an armored vehicle through the doors, fired gas munition and 40-millimeter rounds through windows, threw flash-bang grenades into the home, and set off explosives to get through walls. The home was, per the Washington Post, "utterly destroyed." And yet the only compensation offered to the family was $5,000 to go toward the insurance deductible and temporary rental assistance for Lech's son, who was renting the home at the time. The Leches sued, but on Tuesday, a federal appeals court sided with the city, ruling that since police were trying to enforce the law when the home was destroyed, no compensation is due.
The Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause guarantees citizens will be compensated if their property is seized for public use, but the three-judge panel ruled that this was not a case of eminent domain; rather, it said, the city was acting within its "police power" and thus the situation is not considered a "taking." Police, the court said, can't be "burdened with the condition" that they must compensate everyone damaged by their actions while they're protecting the public, Courthouse News reports. However, Lech, who says he has put out $400,000 to rebuild, takes issue with that point: While the suspect did fire at least once at police through the garage, "This is one guy with a handgun. This guy was sleeping. This guy was eating. This guy was just hanging out in this house." He may appeal to the Supreme Court. "There has to be a limit," he says. "There has to be accountability." As for the suspect, who also tried to run over an officer while fleeing, he was sentenced to 100 years, Patch reports. (Read more appeals court stories.)