SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Amy Hadley watched from down the street horrified as police raided her South Bend home 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.
Amy’s home insurance covered only part of the costs of the damage done to her home and possessions. But the government agencies involved in the raid have rejected Amy’s pleas for compensation. Now, Amy is suing South Bend and St. Joseph County under the Indiana and U.S. Constitutions with the Institute for Justice (IJ), a nonprofit public interest law firm that protects property rights nationwide.
“Amy did nothing wrong to invite the destruction that government officials deliberately inflicted on her property,” said IJ Attorney Marie Miller. “The public as a whole, not Amy alone, must pay for the cost of that law enforcement action.”
A law enforcement officer believed that a fugitive was using social media from Amy’s home. But the officer was wrong. Noah, Amy’s teenage son, was the only member of the family at home when the police surrounded the house and demanded that occupants come out with their hands up. Even though police knew instantly that Noah was not the person they were seeking, they still held him at gunpoint, handcuffed him, and took him to the police station.
Amy and her daughter Kayla arrived after Noah was already in custody. They truthfully insisted that they did not know the fugitive and that their security cameras would have alerted them if the man were in the home. Police dismissed their pleas and 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.
Because tear gas polluted the air and shattered glass filled their beds, Amy and her family slept in their car. Their clothes, electronics, and other personal items were destroyed by tear gas. The family’s kitten, inside the home throughout the raid, survived but was distressed.
In the days that followed, Amy tried to get information and compensation from the responsible government agencies. 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 shoulder thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.
“The raid turned our lives and our home upside down,” said Amy. “The police clearly made a huge mistake, but there has never been an apology for the way we were treated or an offer to cover the damage. If one of the agencies won’t take responsibility, I hope the court will make them.”
Amy is not the only innocent property owner to be left to pay for damage done by the government. IJ is currently helping a Los Angeles printer whose equipment was destroyed after an LAPD raid. IJ is also representing Texas woman whose home was wrecked by a SWAT raid. IJ also is arguing at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a Texas farmer in a case about whether the state should compensate him after a highway renovation led to devastating floods.
“The U.S. and Indiana constitutions give the government the power to take and destroy private property for public use, but both plainly require the government to pay for the property it takes or destroys,” said IJ Senior Attorney Patrick Jaicomo. “Even children understand the concept that ‘if you break it, you buy it.’ Unfortunately for Amy and many Americans like her, the government is still struggling with this basic idea.”