- In 2015, an armed shoplifting suspect barricaded himself in a stranger’s home, prompting police to use explosives to enter the home and apprehend him.
- The house, owned by Leo Lech, was left uninhabitable and the city only offered him $5,000 for damages, which he turned down considering the house was worth about $580,000.
- Lech sued the city and several officers for the market rate of his home, but the court sided with police, saying they acted within their right to do their job.
- Reports say he is considering taking the case to the Supreme Court.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled Tuesday that the city of Greenwood Villiage, Colorado and its police do not have to financially compensate the owners of a home that they destroyed during a 2015 police standoff.
In June of that year, an armed shoplifter broke into Leo Lech’s property, which he bought for his son, his son’s girlfriend, and her son.
The suspect broke into the home while attempting to flee from police and barricaded himself in the bathroom. Officers used an armored vehicle, explosives, and other tactics to force entry by breaking down walls and windows. According to the appeals court, the 19-hour standoff left ultimately left Lech’s property “uninhabitable.”
However. in their ruling, the court decided that police were acting within the scope of their powers because they were doing their job at the time.
“Because the officers damaged the Lechs’ home while attempting to apprehend a criminal suspect, the district court reasoned, their actions fell within the scope of ‘the state’s police powers and not the power of eminent domain,'” the ruling said.
Lech sued the city of Greenwood Villiage, as well as a few police officers, alleging violations of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. The Takings Clause states that private property can’t be taken for public use, without compensation.
“Under no circumstances in this country should the government be able to blow up your house and render a family homeless,” Lech told NPR. “This family was thrown out into the street without any recourse.”
The city of Greenwood Village offered him $5,000, which they say he turned down. According to The Denver Post, the house was appraised at $580,000, and insurance gave him $345,000. Lech ended up taking out a $600,000 mortgage loan to build the new house. He told NPR all he wanted out of the lawsuit was to get market value.
“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.” he told the outlet. “I didn’t want to sue anyone for millions. I just wanted fair market value for my house.”
The City of Greenwood Village ended up defending the court’s decision Wednesday in a statement Wednesday.
“The Courts have recognized that while these types of events present difficult questions, the police should value life over property and may act pursuant to their police powers accordingly,” their statement read.
According to several reports, Lech hopes to take the case to the Supreme Court.
Details on the Standoff
The standoff with the suspect, Robert Seacat, started after he fled a Walmart by car and was chased by officers. According to the affidavit, Seacat abandoned his vehicle and continued on foot, crossing an active highway in the process. He eventually broke into the Lech’s home in hopes of finding a new vehicle.
The nine-year-old, whose name is redacted in the affidavit, was the only one home at the time of the break-in. He was watching YouTube videos when he heard the home alarm being activated. He saw Seacat from the top of the stairs and noticed his gun. Seacat never pointed the gun at the child and told him he meant to cause no harm and just wanted an escape vehicle. The child was able to get out of the house shortly after without injury.
Officers tried to negotiate with Seacat for several hours, but ended up having to use force. According to the ruling, police “fired several rounds of gas munition into the home, breached the home’s door with a BearCat armored vehicle” and “used explosives to create sight lines and points of entry to the home.”
When officers entered the home, Seacat fired his weapon, causing officers to retreat. They then used the BearCat vehicle to open holes into the home, allowing them to successfully apprehend and disarm Seacat, who has since been convicted on 17 felony counts and sentenced to 100 years in prison.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Denver Post) (CBS Denver)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.