LOS ANGELES—On Friday, the owner of a Los Angeles print shop, whose business was destroyed by a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) SWAT team in 2022, won the first round of his lawsuit seeking compensation for the destruction. Judge John F. Walter of the United States District Court for the Central District of California denied the city of Los Angeles’ motion for judgment on the pleadings. This means the lawsuit filed by Carlos Pena and the Institute for Justice (IJ) against the city can move forward.
“Carlos deserves the opportunity to have his case heard on the merits, and we’re glad Judge Walter feels the same way,” said IJ Attorney Jeffrey Redfern. “This is a major first step toward ensuring Carlos is compensated for the tens of thousands of dollars in damage the SWAT team did to his shop. If the government destroys innocent people’s property, it must pay for that damage.”
On August 3, 2022, Carlos Pena was at his shop, NoHo Printing and Graphics, when he heard a helicopter flying overhead and someone shouting into a megaphone outside. When he approached the door to see what was going on, an armed fugitive who was fleeing from the U.S. Marshals threw Carlos out and ran into Carlos’ shop to hide out. The Marshals then initiated a standoff before a SWAT team from the LAPD 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.
When Carlos reached out to his insurance company, he was told they don’t cover “acts of government.” The U.S. Marshals also refused to pay, because the LAPD were the ones who caused the damage. Then, when Carlos reached out to the city for compensation, they ignored his pleas. Since that time, Carlos estimates he’s been left operating his business at 20% of its normal capacity.
In Friday’s opinion, Judge Walter said that “the LAPD SWAT team caused extensive damages to his business on August 3, 2022, which has severely interfered with his ability to operate his business and earn a livelihood. Moreover, Defendant has failed to compensate Plaintiff for that damage, or even acknowledge his requests for compensation.”
“I’m hopeful that this is the first step for getting compensated, so I can begin rebuilding the business I worked so hard to build in the first place,” said Carlos.