Another Kind of Police Asset Forfeiture

Asset forfeiture is bad when the police take your stuff; it is also bad when police destroy your stuff.

I often write about asset forfeiture where a law enforcement group simply takes assets they “suspect” were used in a crime. They never have to prove the guilt of the person whose assets they grab. Often, they don’t even charge him. Police departments can then afford new “toys” and even sometimes an entirely new police station.

But there are other ways law enforcement personnel can carry out asset forfeiture. For example, they can get an informant to use a truck that belongs to his employer, without his permission, so that it gets riddled with bullets during a sting operation. Then they can refuse to accept any responsibility for the damaged property.

RTV 6 ABC reports on a similar kind of asset forfeiture: “Owner of house blown apart by SWAT says: ‘This is an abomination. This is an atrocity’

The damage was inflicted by police and SWAT officers who were working to capture Robert Jonathan Seacat, a suspected 33-year-old shoplifter who allegedly barged into a random home Wednesday afternoon, and opened fire on police when they tried to arrest him a short time later.

The incident began Wednesday afternoon, when he was allegedly spotted shoplifting in Aurora. Seacat then drove to a nearby light rail station, where he ditched his car and ran.

Eventually, he ran into [Leo] Lech’s house on South Alton Street in Greenwood Village, where the 9-year-old boy was inside. Police dispatchers and the child’s mother, who is engaged to Lech’s son, talked the child out of the house.

The boy was unhurt, but the standoff was just beginning.

Seacat wasn’t taken into custody until Thursday morning. The SWAT team said it used chemical agents, flash-bang grenades and a “breaching ram” to end the nearly 20-hour standoff.

“There was obviously some kind of explosive that was fired into here,” Lech said, showing 7NEWS anchor Anne Trujillo the cavernous hole in the wall that used to protect the boy’s bedroom.

Those holes are visible in nearly every room on the second floor.

A neighbor, who says the SWAT team used his home as a base of operations, points out that whatever the police used to blast the holes sent debris flying.

“When they used the explosives to blow apart the side of this house here, they broke our windshield,” the neighbor said.

“There are holes just like this one all through the back of the house too,” Lech said. “They methodically fired explosives into every room in this house in order to extract one person. Granted, he had a handgun, but against 100 officers? You know, the proper thing to do would be to evacuate these homes around here, ensure the safety of the homeowners around here, fire some tear gas through the windows. If that didn’t work, you have 50 SWAT officers with body armor break down the door.”

As it is, the owner is facing a quarter million dollars in damages. This includes the loss of a family heirloom diamond ring that was destroyed amidst the attack on the house. The police department has no intention of compensating Lech for his loss.

Essentially, Lech’s property has been forfeited.