Destroying a House To Save It: Colorado Police Under Fire After Destroying Home To Capture Armed Walmart Shoplifter

z-2Colorado police in Greenwood Village seem to follow the same approach to home invasion as the major at the battle of for the South Vietnamese town of Ben Tre: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.” The logic however escaped Anna Mumzhiyan and her fiance John Lech. Police chased a shoplifter who was believed to be armed to their home. The Walmart shoplifter, Robert Seacat, (left) was met by a SWAT team including the most all-too-common armored cars. Not willing to wait him out, the police proceeded to punch holes through the walls of the home and plant explosives — destroying walls and leaving the home uninhabitable. They got their man and the homeowners got a collapsing wreck of a home. Police are still debating whether they are liable for the damage.

john.lech.anna.mumzhiyan.facebook.1Anna and John (right) are miffed that the police could not take a less militarized and extreme approach. Anna’s nine-year-old boy was in the home when Seacat ran in. The boy said that Seacat (who has drug-related warrants) did not threaten the boy and kept the gun down by his side. The boy said that Seacat told him “I don’t mean you any harm. I don’t want to harm anybody.” The boy was allowed to leave or escaped without resistance. Police therefore knew that Seacat was alone in the house.

No one would suggest that the police should put anyone at risk to avoid property damage. Indeed, one account said that Seacat fired his weapon through a garage door to keep officers at bay. There was good reason to send the SWAT team and there was good reason not to storm the house. However, this was also a shoplifter alone in a surrounded dwelling. Given the account of a possible gun, it was wise to try to wait him out but the police decided to destroy parts of the home after about 20 hours of a standoff.

The couple says that no one from the police or the city offered to help them. Rather, they told the media that “basically, they came in, they blew up the house, and they said, ‘Okay. See you.'”

After trying to use Seacat’s sister to get him out, the police used a “breaching ram,” robots, and flash bang grenades. They also cut off all of the power to the entire neighborhood.

I am unconvinced that police could not wait out Seacat but I am certainly willing to defer to their judgment. However, when it comes to the cost, I would think that the city is entirely on the hook for the damage and should have immediately put the family up in a hotel, particularly when they have a young child. Under the common law, “public champions” like fire fighters and police are not responsible for damage to private property but the modern approach is to allow for such compensation. Thus, it was common to destroy homes to create fire breaks and technically no compensation was required. Today compensation is generally given.

The case also raises a concern over the increasing militarization of police departments and the tendency to use paramilitary forces rather than simply wait out felons like Seacat. The fear is that with the availability of larger SWAT unites and armored vehicles, police are inclined to use the higher level of force.

What do you think?

Source: Westword

34 thoughts on “Destroying a House To Save It: Colorado Police Under Fire After Destroying Home To Capture Armed Walmart Shoplifter”

  1. #1 – randyjet, good point. Even if the HO insurance covers the structure, but they lost their personal belongings like photographs, that’s a tragedy.
    #2 – they were remiss not to put the family up in a hotel
    #3 – what was a 9 year old doing home alone, or were they just outside?
    #4 – he ceased to be “just a shoplifter” when he allegedly fired on police from the garage door in a suburban neighborhood and, at least temporarily, was in a home with a 9 year old and a gun. This would have been a completely different headline if the police had just stood there while he ran in and shot that kid. Thank goodness he let him go or he escaped. Unless they are hollow points, bullets can travel through walls unless they hit a stud. They can’t allow a shootout in a neighborhood if they can help it or the neighbors could get killed, as well as the cops.
    #5 – once he fired on police, there is no way in Hades they would ever just walk away and let him go
    #6 – bringing down the house seems excessive. They seriously could not get the shooter any other way? It reminds me of the hunt for the cop killer Chris Dorner. Why couldn’t they throw the flash grenades through a window instead of punching a hole in the wall? Send in a robot? Smoke bomb? I am interested to hear law enforcement’s perspective on the protocol for getting out an entrenched shooter in a populated neighborhood.
    #7 – YES they should pay for the damage AND put them up in a hotel until their house is repaired or rebuilt, even if HO insurance covers some of it. How are they going to afford to stay in a hotel while also paying for a mortgage? In this economy, not everyone has enough money to maintain two residences.
    #8 – this seems to show a lack of accountability increasingly common in our government.
    #9 – the department’s actions and their policy towards compensation need to be investigated.

    I admit that this reminds of “The Incredibles” – “It was coming down anyway. . . structurally unsound.” I can only joke because that kid is OK.

  2. Reblogged this on tea time with miss b and commented:
    This is America today. Cops can kill civilians in high speed chases, destroy homes over shoplifting because we have lost all reason and sanity when it comes to what is crime and proportionate response.

  3. If this is LE, I think we stand a better chance with the outlaws.

    If this the LE answer for shop lifting, it may be more cost effective to just give the guy a couple of Benjamins a day and tell him to stay home.

  4. A swat team to bring in a shoplifter? Obviously, a strong guy if he can lift a shop, but the police efforts to apprehend him seem a little over the top. But then, police often are of the same mentality and personality type as the criminals. They simply have chosen their line of work for the steady pay and adventure over uncertainty of remuneration in a life of crime, like shoplifting. Many have learned their skills in the military, so it would seem reasonable they would want the same tools available in civilian police work.

  5. @randyjet, according to other sources, yes, home insurance will cover the home, but not family belongings that were totally destroyed in the battle.

  6. “randyjet
    1, June 9, 2015 at 8:53 am
    A more interesting question is will the homeowners insurance cover the damage? I know that most insurance policies do not allow recovery for damages arising from a crime. Do any of our legal folks know the rules on this?”

    I read on one site the homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover acts by incompetent government.

    The police chief didn’t see anything wrong. Unsurprisingly neither did other area police departments. This is police culture. And it’s rancid. This is what happens when people acquiesce to their police forces and don’t give any oversight. They become military forces who view their shifts as a battle against evil. And we’re the evil ones.

    Next time I hear a blindly pro cop supporter say we should try being a cop for a month, I’ll recommend a cop tries not being one for a month too.

  7. In this case commonly law is commonly socialist, and uncommonly stupid.
    It respects the state’s presumptive right to destroy private property for the public good, and presumes that that that destruction is to be a forced private donation to the public good.
    I am amazed that such common law jurisprudence isn’t fundamentally null and void as any kind of legal stance in modern America, the 5th Amend. takings clause alone is anti-socialist in inception.

  8. “Police are still debating whether they are liable for the damage.”

    Sounds like a punchline to a flippant joke.

  9. Next time that your police departments ask for new weapons – “just in case”, remember that history shows that those weapons will be used.

    Just like training a dog, a short lease is always better.

  10. I can just hear it now. Hey boys get out the tank. It’s going to be fun!

    All of this for a shoplifter. I don’t believe a word of the police account. We are living in a time when police enjoy destruction and chaos as much as some of the people they are allegedly protecting us from. They watch the shoot-em up movies and see how much “fun” they are with the wise cracking cops smiling and laughing. They see them as training films.

    This puts us all at risk. Imagine a SWAT team for a shoplifter! We already know they use them for parking tickets and overdue books.

  11. The citizens of Greenwood Village can help, go tot he town council meeting and demand that Anna, John, and their child be compensated.

  12. A more interesting question is will the homeowners insurance cover the damage? I know that most insurance policies do not allow recovery for damages arising from a crime. Do any of our legal folks know the rules on this?

  13. @issak, the next level is already here, at least for eyeballing.

    http://gawker.com/florida-cops-choke-black-teen-holding-puppy-over-dehum-510491930

    “Police in Miami say they had no choice but to forcefully restrain a 14-year-old boy who was playing on the beach with his friends because he was giving them “dehumanizing stares. (…) Sensing an imminent “threat” from Tremaine’s body language and “dehumanizing stares,” the officers placed the teen in a chokehold. (…) Police ultimately booked Tremaine on a felony charge of resisting arrest with violence as well as misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.”

  14. 1. could they not break just the door?
    2. could they not open the door with the key given by the homeowners?
    3. could they not simply leave? remember, he is a shoplifter, and even if he really fired through the garage door, he did it only because he was surrounded by police; even more likely that it was some other sound, mistook for a shot, same as backfiring car was elsewhere. “No one would suggest that the police should put anyone at risk to avoid property damage. ” 99.99% of the risk there was exactly because of the police presence with their philosophy that no price is too high to enforce a law however small. It’s almost certain that if left alone, the shoplifter wouldn’t do any damage to anyone. The police did quite a damage in full conscience. Who is the criminal here?

  15. The use of overwhelming force against an armed suspect when there is no risk to innocent people is hard to argue. We like to think of a situation like this calling for a wise and clever ‘thinking’ officer who talks the suspect into surrendering.

    In this case it seems that the point the police are making is of the absolute authority. This was seen in the previous post where the officer at the pool party dragged a 13 year old girl in a bikini to the ground for what must have been a disrespectful remark as she was following the officer’s instructions and leaving the area.

    One must ask, what will be the next level of police protection, beaten or killed caught ‘eyeballing’ an officer, surplus battle tanks to bust down walls, etc. It seems that there must have been alternatives to destroying the house as it seems that the police are sending an enhanced message to those that confront them and/or society whether they be 13 years old in a bathing suit or an armed shoplifter.

  16. On an unrelated note: Are Fourth Amendment rights being violated during searches connected to the escape of the Dannemora New York prisoners? (kind of like searches conducted after the Boston marathon bombing?)

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