Amy Hadley watched in horror as her home was raided by police and destroyed in South Bend, Indiana, in June 2022. Over a year later, her family is still traumatized and their home still bears the scars of the raid. And all of this happened because police were searching for a man who was never in their home and who had no connection to Amy’s family.

Noah Hadley, just 15 at the time, was the only one there when police surrounded his home and started calling for occupants to come out. He followed their instructions and told them he was the only one in the house. Officers cuffed Noah and took him away without letting him call his mom.

Amy arrived on the scene shortly after the officers took her son away. A neighbor had called her, telling her about the commotion at her home. None of the officers believed Amy when she tried to explain that the officers had the wrong house. She watched from down the street as a SWAT team and other officers shattered windows with tear gas grenades, flooded the house with toxic fumes, upended furniture, tore down fixtures, punched holes in the walls, destroyed family photos and drawings, and rifled through the family’s belongings.

When the dust settled, the house was uninhabitable for days. Tear gas saturated everything, glass filled the beds, windows and walls were shattered and mangled. Amy and her family slept in her car. Amy tried to get answers and compensation from the government agencies. But they denied her requests. Her insurance company covered only part of the damage. She was left with thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to shoulder herself.

That’s both unfair and unconstitutional. When the government deliberately destroys an innocent owner’s property to serve a public interest—here, public safety—both the Indiana Constitution and the U.S. Constitution require the government to compensate the owner. The local governments in this case determined that the public benefit of trying to apprehend a fugitive outweighed the costs of damaging Amy’s property in the process. That was their decision to make, but they must pay for it.

Case Team

Clients

Attorneys

Staff

Media Resources

Get in touch with the media contact and take a look at the image resources for the case.

Andrew Wimer Director of Media Relations [email protected]

Press Releases

Amy’s Dream Home is Ruined

Amy fell in love with her house even before she moved in. It had character, warmth, and made her feel truly at home. All that changed just a year after she and her kids moved in. It was a summer afternoon on a Friday. Amy and her daughter, Kayla, were away. Amy’s 15-year-old son, Noah, was home with the family kitten, playing video games. Little did any of them know that St. Joseph county police and South Bend city police were targeting their home, believing that a dangerous fugitive was there.

By some grave mistake, officers thought that the fugitive was actively posting on a social media account from inside Amy’s house. In fact, the man was not there and never had been. Nor did Amy and her children have any connection to him.

Officers surrounded the house, obtained a warrant to search it, and blared orders through a bullhorn, commanding anyone inside to come out with their hands up. At first Noah thought the noise was part of his video game, but then he heard his own street address among the sounds.

Scared and confused, he came out the front door with his hands up and asked officers what was going on. Officers knew immediately that Noah was not the man they were after. They told him he was not under arrest and not suspected of a crime, but they still aimed military-grade rifles at him, handcuffed him, and took him to a police station. They disregarded his pleas to call his mom and his insistence that nobody else was inside the house.

A neighbor called Amy to let her know about the commotion. Amy and Kayla soon arrived at the end of the block. They found their house surrounded by police officers, a SWAT vehicle and SWAT gear, and crime-scene tape blocking off nearly the entire block. They tried to get answers from the officers about what was going on and why their house was being commandeered by police.

Officers gave little information, but they showed Amy and Kayla a picture of the man they were looking for and asked if Amy and Kayla knew him or had seen him. Amy and Kayla explained that they had never seen him and did not know who he was. They also explained that, thanks to their home security cameras, they would know if the man or any other stranger were inside the house. Kayla also asked the officers to be careful because their cat was inside. The officers did not seem to listen or care.

Instead, they launched tear gas grenades through the windows, threw flash-bang grenades through the front door, and ransacked the place. After searching the home attic-to-basement, the officers had to face the fact that they had made a major mistake.

Amy is Left to Bear the Cost of the Police’s Mistake

As the afternoon grew late, the officers left. Amy retrieved Noah from the police station and the family was left to clean up the mess alone. The tear gas made the home uninhabitable, so they slept in their car in the driveway until the fumes dissipated.

Glass was in their beds. The furniture was upended. Their clothes, electronics, and other personal items were destroyed by tear gas and the officers’ ransacking. Some property was irreplaceable, like old family photos and childhood drawings. The siege also destroyed Amy’s love for her home. It no longer felt like a safe haven full of charm. It was a terrifying scene flooded with a noxious odor.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, Amy tried to clean and put the house back together. She also tried to get information and compensation from the city and county. The authorities pointed fingers at each other with none taking responsibility. Her homeowners’ insurance policy covered only some of the damage. So, she has been left to personally foot thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.

Defendants

Amy’s case names the City of South Bend and St. Joseph County as defendants.

Legal Claims—the Right to Compensation for Intentional Destruction of Property

Under both the Indiana and federal constitutions, the government may “take” private property for a public use, but only if it pays the property owner “just compensation.” Many people are familiar with this concept in the context of eminent domain, where the government decides to condemn property to build a road, school, or park. But the principle applies equally when the government “takes” property by intentionally destroying it or commandeering it for government use.

The same is true of actions that a government takes using its so-called “police power.” Yet some lower courts in recent years have unfortunately held that the government is not required to reimburse owners for property damaged by executive action. For instance, the South Dakota Supreme Court held that the police are exempt from the state takings clause; a federal court in Denver held that the government did not have to compensate an innocent owner when a SWAT team destroyed his house; and another federal court held that the government did not have to compensate an owner whose property floods because of a concrete barrier that the department of transportation constructed along a highway.

But those decisions create exceptions that are nowhere supported in the law or constitutions, and they are not the last word on the issue. The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted review of that last decision. And other lower courts have come out the other way, ruling that constitutional “takings” clauses require compensation when the government destroys property while exercising its police power.

That makes sense. The public should pay the dispersed costs for takings that are intended to benefit the public. Otherwise, innocent owners like Amy are left footing the bill for police operations they had nothing to do with. Decisions denying compensation for police action also severely misread Supreme Court precedent, which repeatedly and explicitly instructs that the police power is not exempt from the constitution’s Takings Clause. The Indiana Constitution likewise requires a remedy in the form of just compensation when the government injures a person in their property.

To be clear, Amy does not claim that the responsible government agencies (or their officers) acted outside of their authority. Rather, her claims are that because the agencies determined that they were protecting the public by launching grenades through her windows, filling her home with tear gas, and destroying her private property, it is unfair and unconstitutional for Amy to bear those costs instead of the public.

The costs of policing—which benefits the public as a whole—should be borne by the public as a whole, not unlucky innocent property owners like Amy. That’s why the Institute for Justice is supporting Amy in her effort to establish that police are not immune from the maxim of “you break it, you buy it.”

Litigation Team

This case is led by IJ Attorney Marie Miller and IJ Senior Attorney Patrick Jaicomo.

About the Institute for Justice

The Institute for Justice (IJ) defends property rights nationwide. In Texas, IJ is seeking $60,000 for a woman whose home was wrecked in a SWAT raid. In California, IJ is fighting for compensation for a Los Angeles printer whose equipment was wrecked by a SWAT team after a fugitive barricaded himself in the shop. IJ also arguing at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a Texas farmer who is seeking compensation after the state built a concrete barrier along a highway that causes devastating floods on his farm.