BOISE — A Boise woman has filed a tort claim against the Boise Police Department claiming the SWAT team damaged her apartment the night her estranged spouse allegedly threatened her with knives and engaged in a seven-hour standoff with police.
The woman filed the claim Dec. 13, after the SWAT team and other officers responded Dec. 10 to her apartment in the 8500 block of Fairview Avenue to serve a protection order she had against Sean Hurst, 34, of Boise.
The Idaho Press will not identify the woman, due to threats prosecutors later said the man made against her life on that afternoon just prior to the standoff.
“He told her that a protection order would not stop him from kicking in her door and killing her before law enforcement could arrive,” a representative from the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office said at Hurst’s arraignment in court Dec. 13.
No one died in the incident. The suspect could be responsible to pay for the damages, according to Boise police.
A tort is not a lawsuit, but it is often the precursor to a lawsuit — it’s simply a notice from one party believes it is entitled to damages from another party.
According to a news release from the Boise Police Department, officers responded the afternoon of Dec. 10 to serve a protection order the woman had in place against Hurst.
According to the criminal complaint later filed against him, Hurst threatened the woman in her apartment with two knives on Dec. 10.
“I tried having the police serve a protection order which turned into a seven-hour standoff with the police and SWAT,” the woman wrote in the tort claim.
In court days later, a prosecutor said Hurst had threatened the woman with calls and texts before. According to a 2017 affidavit of probable cause for his arrest, he had also gone to her workplace.
Prosecutors allege Hurst told the woman on Dec. 10 the situation would become a hostage situation.
Officers responded that evening and were able to get the woman and her child away from Hurst.
By 7 p.m., no one except Hurst was in the apartment, which was on the building’s third story. He refused to speak with police, according to the release, and officers began evacuating people in nearby apartments.
“With the assistance of a police K9, Officers were able to take the suspect into custody around 1:30 am.,” according to the release. “The suspect received minor injuries from the K9 and was taken to the hospital for treatment of a prior medical issue.”
The woman’s tort claim alleges officers damaged the apartment during their efforts to arrest Hurst.
“The police shot out the windows, sliding glass door, shot tear gas into the house and had to eventually knock the door in, causing an extreme amount of damage to the whole apartment, including the balcony,” the woman wrote in the claim.
In court, prosecutors recited the same events and noted police had gassed the apartment.
“Law enforcement had to evacuate the apartment, and even then they had to breach the door and a K9 had to be used to take the defendant into custody,” said the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office’s representative in court.
The woman did not write how much she expects the damage will cost to fix. She did not respond to a call, text or email from the Idaho Press seeking more information.
Colin Hickman, a spokesman for the city of Boise, said the city could not comment because the claim is pending litigation.
Boise Police Department spokesman Ryan Larrondo wrote in an email to the Idaho Press that during standoff situations, officers have to weigh the well-being of human lives against the preservation of property.
“Depending on the circumstances, it sometimes becomes necessary to utilize various force options, which can include the deployment of gas, similar to mace, used to force someone out of a building,” Larrondo wrote.
“Other use of force methods can sometimes result in damage to structures, including doors and windows. When this takes place, we try to work with the property owner(s) to mitigate any damage, but ultimately, resulting damage in a standoff situation is most often deemed to be the responsibility of the suspect who always has the option of peacefully submitting to a lawful and proper arrest prior to any force being used,” he wrote.
Legal action against cities and police departments seeking damages for marred property aren’t unheard of, but plaintiffs do face legal hurdles.
In October, for instance, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled residents of the Denver suburb of Greenwood Village could not sue the city or its police department, even after the department’s SWAT team broke nearly every window in his apartment after a 19-hour standoff in 2015, the Denver Post reported. Much of that apartment’s interior was destroyed, according to the Denver Post — and the resident had no connection to the person police were trying to arrest. The suspect had simply chosen to hide in the apartment.
The Greenwood Village building’s residents argued they deserved compensation from the government under the U.S. Constitution’s “Takings Clause,” which requires governments to provide fair compensation in cases of eminent domain.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, disagreed and wrote “Because (1) the defendants’ law-enforcement actions fell within the scope of the police power and (2) actions taken pursuant to the police power do not constitute takings,” according to the court’s Oct. 29 decision.
The decision received a splash of media attention, and the residents — Leo, Alfonsia and John Lech — told the Denver Post they intend to ask a full panel of 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judges to hear the case, and may possibly appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.