- 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)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.