Owner fights for compensation after SWAT team destroyed his business

By Bob Unruh

The Institute for Justice has begun working with the owner of a small business in North Hollywood that was blown up – destroyed – by SWAT officers in pursuit of a fugitive.

And after the print shop was destroyed, the suspect got away anyway.

The IJ reports the fight has erupted because the city of Los Angeles, whose officers destroyed Carlos Pena’s NoHo Printing and Graphics store, has refused to provide any compensation.

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The catastrophe developed last year when an armed fugitive fleeing U.S. marshals threw Pena out of his store and then ran in to hide out.

“The marshals then initiated a standoff before a SWAT team from the Los Angeles Police Department arrived and fired more than 30 rounds of teargas into the business. Carlos—who waited in a nearby restaurant for 13 hours as his 31-year-old business was being destroyed—estimates that the raid caused more than $60,000 in damage,” the IJ said.

His insurance carrier refused compensation because “the government” caused the massive loss.

U.S. marshals also refused, because the damage was done by the LA officers.

The city also refused.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was told that I wouldn’t be paid for the damage. The business I had worked so hard to build was completely destroyed and I was left with the bill, even though I did nothing wrong,” he said.

The damage included holes in the doors, windows and ceiling, the destruction of all the machinery in the shop, and more.

“Pursuing dangerous fugitives is a legitimate government function, and unfortunately sometimes that will lead to the destruction of innocent people’s property. But when that happens, the government can’t just shrug and say, ‘tough luck.’ It must compensate the victim,” said IJ Attorney Jeff Redfern.

“Nobody should have to go through what Carlos has gone through the past 11 months,” said IJ Attorney Suranjan Sen. “Carlos has done everything right throughout this entire process, and he’s still being left to foot the bill for damage that was not his fault and that represents a service to the public. This isn’t just wrong, it’s unconstitutional. The Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause ensures that public burdens, like catching a fugitive, should be borne by the public as a whole, not unlucky, innocent individuals.”

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IJ previously has fought the same battle, winning in Texas when a jury ruled the city of McKinney must pay nearly $60,000 to a woman whose home was destroyed by a SWAT team.

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