SWAT

A SWAT Team Destroyed This Innocent Woman's House While Chasing a Fugitive. The City Refuses To Pay for Damages.

"I've lost everything," says Vicki Baker.

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What's a home worth?

It's a tough question, and it's one that Vicki Baker found herself trying to answer the hard way after a SWAT team mutilated her house in McKinney, Texas, during a standoff with a fugitive who had barricaded himself inside.

"For two days, I couldn't quit crying," Baker says. "The tear gas was everywhere. It was on the walls. It was on the floors. It was on the furniture. It was everywhere."

Prior to the SWAT showdown, Baker's daughter, Deanna Cook, gave officers a key to the home, as well as a garage door opener and the back gate code. Agents took a different route. They smashed six windows. Instead of using the code, they maneuvered a BearCat armored vehicle through her fencing. Instead of using the clicker, they detonated explosives to blow off the garage entryway. And instead of using the key, they drove right on through her front door.

"It was after the insurance company told me there was no coverage that I really fell apart," Baker adds. The company furnished a clause that protects them from liability in cases where the government is at fault for the damage. But the city demurred: There would be no coverage from them. She was not a victim, according to the state.

"I've lost everything," Baker says. "I've lost my chance to sell my house. I've lost my chance to retire without fear of how I'm going to make my regular bills."

On July 25, 2020, news broke that a man named Wesley Little had kidnapped a 15-year-old girl. He arrived at Baker's home, where he had done some work as a handyman about a year and a half prior; Baker had terminated him after Cook said she felt something wasn't right.

It was Cook who answered the door that day. Having seen the news reports, and frightened for her safety, she let him in, left the home, and called the police. Little eventually released the girl unharmed but refused to leave himself, which is when the SWAT team swooped in. After destroying the house, they found Little inside, dead from suicide.

Baker had recently located a buyer for the home. The 76-year-old, who is battling stage 3 breast cancer, was set to begin retirement with her husband in Montana. Predictably, the sale fell through, as the house was no longer livable. She spent about $50,000 making repairs, a chunk of which she took from her retirement, though some things couldn't be remedied: An antique doll collection from her late mother, which she hoped to gift to her granddaughter, was left covered in tear gas, and her daughter's dog was rendered deaf and blind. Baker eventually landed another buyer—for significantly less than she did prior to police declaring war on the structure.

Over the last year, debates around law enforcement accountability and immunity have rapidly moved from little-known doctrines to dinner-table conversations. The legal concept central in Baker's case has yet to gain traction in the mainstream dialogue, however: The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment requires that the public be compensated for property taken or destroyed by the government, but some lower courts have bafflingly exempted state actions from that if they were pursued under "police power."

A lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice (IJ) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas aims to clarify that.

"They're forcing unlucky individuals to shoulder the burden of doing something that's good for society," says Jeffrey Redfern, an attorney with IJ. "Taking dangerous criminals off the street is good for society. If the city decides that it really needs to put a road through your house, that might be the right call. It might be something the community really needs. But that doesn't justify making one unlucky owner bear the cost of doing something that's good for everyone."

Whether or not the police needed to attack the modest McKinney home with brute militaristic force perhaps more appropriate for a battlefield is indeed an important topic for debate. "I have a very high regard for the police," says Baker, who identifies as a Christian conservative. "I'm very grateful for them." But she remains skeptical of their tactics that day: "I thought it was a bit over the top," she adds. She tells me she in no way supports calls to "defund the police" but she sees a need for reform.

Baker is not the first to lose her home to SWAT tactics gone awry, nor is this the first such case picked up by IJ. SWAT agents in 2015 totaled a $580,000 house in Greenwood Village, Colorado, while in pursuit of a shoplifter who had broken into the residence. The city handed the family a cool $5,000, and the Supreme Court subsequently declined to hear the case. Just last summer, police in Charlotte, North Carolina, decimated a home as they tried to coax a suspect out. The problem: He wasn't even there.

I ask Baker how she'd like to see this nightmare end—what exactly would bring closure? "I'd like to get some of this money back," she says. "I would. But the main reason I wanted to do this, and go through whatever it took to do it, was to set [a] precedent."

NEXT: Kentucky Bill Would Make Insulting a Cop a Crime

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      1. Oh yeah.

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  2. “I’ve lost everything,” says Vicki Baker.

    I don’t know. She looks pretty comfy in that chair.

    “I have a very high regard for the police,” says Baker, who identifies as a Christian conservative. “I’m very grateful for them.”

    I have more sympathy for the dog frankly. Boomers, police; fuck ’em.

  3. Wait a second, are we back at All Cops Are Bastards or are we still at Brave Defenders of Our Democracy Against the Insurrection?

    1. *spins the wheel of Reason*

    2. Protesters are still, 2 months later, being held without bail on little to no evidence of wrongdoing.
      Bootlicker Magazine: progress uber alles

      1. Nardz is senile

        1. KAR’s a pedo bigot

      2. “Protesters are still, 2 months later, being held without bail on little to no evidence of wrongdoing.”

        Reason said they didn’t like cash bail, and now you want them to reverse course and advocate it? /sarc

        1. There’s always ROR.

      3. Who gives two shits about the protestors? Fuck them.

    3. It…depends. This situation doesn’t look good at all. But digging an armed, hostage-taking, potentially barricaded nut out of her house is going to take precedence over preserving said house. If the city of McKinney pays in her case, it’s going to feel pressure to pay in every similar case, like warrant services, and most of those cases will have far less sympathetic plaintiffs than Ms. Baker.

      She knew that her former handyman went bonkers, has then shown up at her door, and she let him in? I mean, I can see it if she had a flimsy door, was unarmed, and unable physically to run away quickly, or similarly unable to resist or delay the madman, until police could arrive. It just sounds weird at first glance.

      1. But digging an armed, hostage-taking, potentially barricaded nut out of her house is going to take precedence over preserving said house.

        After the hostage is released, why not just talk him down or starve him out? It’s certainly going to cost less than $50,000 plus whatever it cost to bring an army to the house. The city made the conscious decision to destroy that house. Regardless of their reasons, it is their responsibility now.

        1. “After the hostage is released, why not just talk him down or starve him out?”

          That sounds good, but again, it depends. Where is her house in relation to other homes in the neighborhood? I.e., are you going to have to evacuate those homes or require the residents to remain inside to ensure their safety? If so, how long must they be locked in their own homes so that SWAT can be assured of taking as much time as they want to wait the guy out? And so on.

          The author of the piece mentions SWAT not opening the gate or going through the front door where they have the key, but instead going through the fence and blowing open another entry point. Would going through the fence or opening the front door expose the officers to more fire versus the way they chose to enter the property instead? There’s a bunch more questions like this, but the gist is that officer (and if we’re lucky, the hostage’s) safety issues are going to trump property preservation of an innocent third party.

          Finally, while I agree that Ms. Baker has been wronged by McKinney police (or whatever agency was at fault), how do you ensure that she, and only she, gets restitution for something like this, while excluding the owner of the local trap house from making similar claims of property damage? Because one event happens a lot more often than the other, and in this political climate, if you pay for one, you might end up having to pay for all of them.

          1. I’d rather the government pay for all of them than not pay for the one who’s wronged.

        2. What a bunch of malicious assholes the SWAT team was for destroying an innocent person’s house and wrecking her life! It would be one thing if they’d just broken down one door, or a couple of windows, maybe, but to totally destroy the whole house–THAT’S going WAAAAAAY too far, imho!

    4. I’m still at <i≥the government should pay for destroying the property of innocent people when engaged in activities for the protection of the public. That position isn’t sensitive to whether cops are sinners or saints.

  4. Little

    Hat size: 7

    Stories like this is where the movie Brazil isn’t satire.

  5. This another example – in a mountain of them – that police don’t protect or serve the citizens of this country. They had numerous ways to get into this house that didn’t involve completely fucking destroying the home. Instead, these assholes decided to play army man with this woman’s home. And OF COURSE they’re refusing to pay for the damages.

    Don’t want to be treated like a thug, don’t get your house destroyed to pieces by a gang of heavily armed thugs…

    1. I think the best angle to go with here is “the public as a whole benefited, the public as a whole should pay, as the Just Compensation Clause of the 5th Amendment specifies.”

      If accepted, this principle would mean she gets her compensation whether the police went overboard or not, so long as it was for the common public purpose of capturing a felon.

      1. Exactly this.

      2. Me, myself, and I will second, third and fourth this motion.

      3. “as the Just Compensation Clause of the 5th Amendment specifies.”

        Ah, you’re pretending like the Constitution protects more than just politicians, cops and the rich. You’re adorable.

        If this has been some black guy in Compton she would have shrugged and told her tea group “well the law in the law, gotta back the blue!”

        This is the same mistake the the cops made with the war on drugs. They were fine violating everyone’s rights as long as they were going after super-predators dealing crack. No prison sentence was long enough. Then they made the mistake of going after white grandma addicted to prescription meds. Suddenly it became all about compassion, forgiveness and dealing kindly with “the disease that is addiction.”

        No one sucks cop dick harder than a Texan. These are people who would have formed a militia to support the British in stopping those “criminals” from throwing tea into Boston Harbor and called themselves more American afterwards for doing it.

        If the police lose not just, white female America, but TEXAS white female America on this as they did with the war on drugs, the gig is up.

      4. The police obviously did go overboard. The woman deserves compensation for the destruction of her house at their hands.

        1. I know, but we need to pick our battles. People can argue or dream up situations where this level of force is acceptable (for example, if he was screaming “you’ll never take me alive” with accompanying automatic gunfire). However, we can all agree that the police should be financially responsible for their own actions.

          Plus, the fact that the police chief will be held responsible at budget time will give him incentive to pull back on his people and keep damage to a reasonable level.

  6. McKinney’s not some shithole either I wonder why common sense doesn’t prevail here

    1. Yup and neither is Greenwood Village.

      I suspect that many police departments are now full of officers who once served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they were just used to barging into homes and pummeling people. War is a drug. It’s why we need to remove ourselves from fighting other countries battles.

      And yes this kind of behavior needs to stop.

      1. Not hiring veterans to be peace officers would be a good start.

        1. Before we jump to this conclusion, it might do us well to remember the journalist who wrote the book, Generation Kill who detailed the attitudes of full time soldiers vs the National Guard troops, many of whom were police officers.

          If I recall, the regular Marines found the police officer-filled ranks to be overly aggressive and just plain trigger happy.

          1. That would make sense, since Marines make life-or-death decisions more often than cops, and therefore should be expected to have more experience in doing it properly.

        2. So will you be looking to BLM and ANTIFA for recruits?

        3. Hire ’em to be teachers instead. Too many wussy teachers set a bad example for our kids.

      2. “Instead of using the code, they maneuvered a BearCat armored vehicle through her fencing. Instead of using the clicker, they detonated explosives to blow off the garage entryway. And instead of using the key, they drove right on through her front door.”

        Boys with Toys. Give them a tank and they’re going to run over stuff.

        1. “Tear gas was nearing its expiration date, so we had to use it. Otherwise we might not have been funded for more!”

  7. Despite the democratic election results, the best time to call the police is after you shoot the bastard. Only of course, if you are old and cannot hide the body all that well.
    (another advantage of certain southern states is the availability of alligators to assist when needed)

    1. *alligators and wild hogs. Never underestimate wild hogs

  8. “The great masses of men, though theoretically free, are seen to submit supinely to oppression and exploitation of a hundred abhorrent sorts. Have they no means of resistance? Obviously they have. The worst tyrant, even under democratic plutocracy, has but one throat to slit. The moment the majority decided to overthrow him he would be overthrown. But the majority lacks the resolution; it cannot imagine taking the risks.” ~ H. L. Mencken (1926). “Notes on Democracy,” p. 50, Alfred A. Knopf
    “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.” ― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn , The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

  9. “Look, Your Honor, the reason I loaded a van full of explosives, aimed it at the chief of police’s house, put it in gear, and put a brick on the accelerator is because I was trying to effect a citizen’s arrest of a suspected shoplifter I thought had gone inside.”

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    1. With all the advances in AI in the past decade, a comment like this still gets through? Even the handle is a giveaway.

      1. You’d prefer “To Serve”?

      2. What do you mean please?

  11. Fuck cops.

    Actually, I shouldn’t let the 90% of shitty ones ruin it for the rest.

  12. Of course the cops had to destroy her house, the criminal may have been “high on something”.

  13. I’ll just reiterate – it’s a trap to focus on criticizing the cops’ decisions in this context, since even if they’d committed damage in a purely legitimate way the govt would still (if the Fifth Amendment were properly applied) have to pay.

    Imagine a gang taking over a house with machine guns and such, and the cops being obliged to destroy the house to take out gang. Assuming the homeowner was an innocent bystander, (s)he should get compensated even if everything the cops did was proper.

    (Now, in practice, it may be that if in the real-life case they’d just used the keys, etc., they might have done less damage – but the principle is there.)

    1. If the department would have to pay for the damages, they would have minimized the damage.

    2. I believe that, technically, the fugitive is liable for all the damage caused in his capture. However, there is the problem that criminals fleeing police are typically broke, and in this case, dead, so there’s no other source of relief.

  14. “…the Supreme Court subsequently declined to hear the case.”

    Well of course that conservative court is just a shill for the government!

    1. I see no difference between Scalia and Ginsberg. All Justices are Ivy indoctrinated lawyers. All are biased in favor of big, tyrannical government.

  15. This article is deliberately misrepresenting the problem.

    The reason why the Takings Clause doesn’t apply here is that this wasn’t the government taking something for the public good.

    The cause of this was that there was a standoff between a criminal and the police; this was not “taking something for the public good”, it was engaging in police action against a criminal who was hiding out in a building. In such scenarios, the person who is responsible for the damage is the criminal.

    1. Then please send a bill to the coroner’s office.

      That’s the issue, both the police and the insurance company are pointing fingers at the criminal. Fugitives have a tendency to be poor to penniless, and in this case, he’s also dead.

      This also creates a perverse incentive. The police have carte blanche to destroy as much as possible without consequence, so of course they take the most destructive route necessary.

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  16. Sorry, lady, the precedent has already been set: You’re fucked.

  17. There was an incident similar to this in Oak Forest, Illinois. The man’s name was Mark. Mark’s casual friend was concerned that Mark was suicidal so, he called the Cops and they sent a SWAT team. The “world’s dumbest negotiator” called Mark and tried to talk Mark down. Mark kept them there for hours. He always does this to his friends. If only the SWAT guys were to ask. If they would have called ANY of his close friends or family, they would have turned this whole thing around in less than a minute. He has been doing this “kind of thing” for 40 years. Instead, the SWAT boys went off short statements made by neighbors that hardly knew Mark as the evacuated them. None of the neighbors said anything bad about Mark, they told the Cops he was a good guy. He was an Electrician, worked on their homes for free, he drinks a lot, and he loves shooting off fireworks when he is drunk. They said he was a great guy. Yep. A REAL threat there. Get the big guns!
    They shot in 16 tear gas bombs or so, they broke all of Mark’s windows, and completely screwed up his home. Unfortunately for the colossal buffoons on the Oak Forest SWAT team, tear gas is excellent for crowds, but utterly ineffective on an empty house. Mark wasn’t there. Mark had not been there all damn day. Boy, did THEY look like assholes. And still do.
    Mark was down the street at Beggar’s pizza, up at the bar, all day, getting hammered and watching the moronic SWAT team on the news as they destroyed his home on television. All the while, Mark talked to their inept negotiator on his cell phone. Finally, the bartender saw Mark’s picture on TV, put 2 and 2 together, and called the cops. They arrested Mark at the bar, no tear gas or body armor needed.
    The cops tried to charge Mark Fitch over $100,000 for their call out. They tried to hammer him with charges. After all, his neighbors stated that “he loves fireworks”. That was enough to treat Mark Fitch like the Unibomber, right? The head of the SWAT team was on TV, looking like an absolute MORON. He was the same “make and model” of moron that was giving statements at Waco after killing all those kids. SWAT-Tards.
    The Oak Forest Cops were all over the news, claiming that Mark was a criminal and this was all his fault. What was never reported was that Mark lived in a hotel for about a year on their tab, they had to pay to rebuild his home. Every nook and cranny had to be repainted. Every window replaced. It cost the taxpayers a ton. He never stopped messing with those morons. It was his life’s mission.
    This lady will be fine. A good lawyer will crush their nuts. As for Mark, he finally did commit suicide, two years ago. His loving family could not save him. None of his lifelong friends could save him. Why the hell would anyone think a SWAT team could?

    1. The police are the agents of the prosecutor, a lawyer.

  18. All soveriegn immunities are justified by a psychotic delusions. They justify violence in formal logic.

  19. All emergency personnel such as Fire and Swat operate under the “acceptable losses” principle, i.e. destruction of property is acceptable over loss of life or serious injury. But it is pathetic that 1.9 trillion dollars is going out, billions of which will either be siphoned off in outright fraud, or end up in the pockets of those who don’t need the money. Yet we cannot compensate a 76 yr. old stage 3 breast cancer victim for her house.

  20. They had all those toys and never an occasion to use them. C’mon man boys will be boys with all their boy toys. Think of how much fun they had getting that dead guy out of that house.

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  22. Ow! How tense! There was no need for so much strength!

  23. In my city a main water line burst and flooded 4 houses near the line. It actually destroyed 2 of the houses completely by washing the foundations right out from under then and they collapsed into the basement under it.

    Of course the insurance company said they were not at fault because the owners didn’t have flood insurance in a non-flood zone, duh!

    Then the government claimed it also wasn’t responsible because it was an “act of god” kind of thing, but the problem is it wasn’t an act of god it was a water line that had been ignored for too long until it burst.

    In this case as well as the one in the article the city and police are negligent and need to pay to make it right.

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