Homeowner Sues Police After Pursuit Of Shoplifter Leaves Him With No Home To Own

from the not-too-far-away-from-'knock-and-talk'-meaning-'phone-call-and-missl dept

The War on Shoplifters.

This is what was left of Leo Lech's home after the Greenwood Village police were done with it. Lech had done nothing wrong. In fact, he wasn't even home. By the point the local PD had decided to turn a standoff with a suspect into a one-house reenactment of the Battle of Fallujah, the only person inside was Robert Jonathan Seacat -- originally wanted for nothing more than shoplifting.

This was all fully justified, according to the police chief, because Seacat had opened fire on police officers during the standoff.

According to Lech's lawsuit, those shots -- five of them, nine hours into the standoff -- by Seacat were met by tear gas, flash bangs, and "72 chemical bombs." Sure, it turns out Seacat had a backpack (and lower intestine) full of drugs, but the police didn't know that when they began their assault. Of course, the complete destruction of an unrelated family's house was considered copacetic because no one died.

“I made the right call because we’re standing here instead of standing over a casket,” said Greenwood Village Police Cmdr. Dustin Varney.

After Seacat fired five shots through the floor at the SWAT team, the decision was made to "vent" the home so interior areas could be more easily viewed by police officers.

When it was all said and done, the PD had gotten their man, along with his drugs, weapons and five casings from bullets fired at officers. Lech was given back his house by officers who severely misrepresented the condition of the residence.

After the SWAT team arrested Seacat amid the rubble, police told the Lechs they could go home, but there was "some damage."

Lech was also given a check for $5,000, the "assistance" of a reluctant insurance company, the city's demand that he also build a new holding pond while rebuilding his house, and the assurances of the local PD that this destruction was not only necessary, but the best case scenario.

Things then got worse, according to Lech's lawsuit.

The Lechs suffered nausea for weeks from trying to rescue items from the rubble, and property inspectors sent there wore "full hazmat gear."

The Lechs had to move to another county. Leo Lech had to take a new job at a lower salary. The boy, D.Z., had to transfer schools and enter therapy.

All of this began with Seacat stealing two belts and a shirt from Wal-Mart. Twenty-four hours later he was in custody and a family was without their home or belongings. Lech is seeking recovery of costs sustained so far, along with additional damages for emotional distress, civil rights violations, trespass, and "taking without compensation."

The police continue to insist this couldn't have been handled any other way, but arrests of armed, barricaded suspects happen all the time without having to completely destroy the building surrounding them. What happened to Lech's house appears to be the end result of a PD with lots of surplus military gear and an excuse to use it. They rolled up in a BearCat and deployed a robot, rams, and explosives to turn Leo Lech's house into a literal shell of itself. And then they walked away from the total destruction patting themselves on the back for taking the suspect alive.

Filed Under: greenwood village, leo lech, police


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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 10 Jun 2016 @ 7:35am

    Re:

    "paid them fair market value"

    No. "Fair market value" would mean that the homeowner would still be suffering an enormous loss. The city should, at a minimum, provide the replacement cost for the property destroyed and for the denial of the use of the property prior to replacement.

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