J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · March 4, 2021

McKinney, Tex.—Last summer, Vicki Baker woke up one morning to every homeowner’s worst nightmare: the night before, a fugitive had taken refuge in her second home, and after a standoff, the police SWAT team used tear gas grenades, explosives and an armored vehicle to utterly destroy the home. They called it “shock and awe.”

The incident left Vicki in shock, too. When the smoke cleared, the home—which her daughter was living in and which was under contract to sell—was uninhabitable. The only living thing that survived the raid was her daughter’s dog, which was left deaf and blind from the explosions.

Vicki, who had recently moved to Montana to retire, was left holding the bill. The city of McKinney and her homeowner’s insurance company told her that police had “immunity” and wouldn’t pay for a dime of the damage. A few days later, the buyer walked away and the sale fell through.

All told, Vicki spent more than $50,000 and months of time to repair her home. She ran up debt on her credit cards, and when those ran out, she had to withdraw funds from her retirement account to afford the repairs. When she finally sold the home this winter, it was for substantially less than before the raid.

Case Resources

Although her home was ultimately sold, Vicki’s work in McKinney is not done. Today she partnered with the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm, to sue the city of McKinney for the damage its police did to her home.

“In America, ‘if you break it, you buy it,’” said IJ Attorney Jeff Redfern. “The McKinney SWAT team didn’t just break Vicki’s home—they destroyed it. Now it is time for them to pay for the damage they caused.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Eastern District of Texas federal court, argues that McKinney’s refusal to pay for the damage violates that Takings causes of both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions.

“The United States and Texas Constitutions make it clear that when the government takes property, whether it’s for a road or in capturing a suspect on behalf of the public, the government must compensate the owner,” said Suranjan Sen, a Liberty and Law Fellow at the Institute for Justice. “Taking a fugitive off the streets benefits everyone, so the cost of the damages caused by the SWAT team should be borne by everyone, not Vicki alone.”

“I appreciate that the police did what they thought was necessary to protect the community,” Vicki said. “But it’s unfair to place the costs—replacing or redoing all of my flooring, the burst pipes, the damaged roof, the blown-out garage door, the broken doors, the toppled fence—on me, just because the guy happened to pick my house and not someone else’s.”

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