ARLINGTON, Va.—On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit filed by a Texas woman whose home was destroyed by a SWAT team may move forward. This is a first step toward holding the city of McKinney accountable for destroying Vicki Baker’s home.
“The court recognized that the city of McKinney is not exempt from the Constitution,” said IJ Attorney Jeffrey Redfern. “This is the first step towards Vicki getting her due, but it’s a big one. The government must compensate individuals when it deliberately destroys their property.”
In the decision, handed down by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Judge Amos Mazzant III threw out the city’s motion to dismiss the case.
Mazzant explained: “At the motion to dismiss stage, it would be imprudent to foreclose Baker’s ability to recover based on the shaky reasoning recited in non-binding cases from other circuits—especially when both the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court have alluded that a taking could result from destructive police power.”
In July 2020, police were pursuing a fugitive who decided to hide out in a home that was listed for sale in the Dallas suburb of McKinney. That home belonged to Vicki Baker. After a lengthy standoff, the SWAT team stormed the home, shattering windows, setting off tear-gas grenades, tearing down doors and destroying the fence. The home was in ruins and Vicki’s daughter’s dog was left deaf and blind from the explosions.
Vicki had renovated the house and it was under contract to be sold. The SWAT team left it uninhabitable; every window was destroyed, and she had to hire a hazmat team to dispose of what was left inside. All in all, it was over $50,000 worth of damage. Upon seeing the destruction that occurred, the potential buyer backed out, Vicki’s insurance company did not cover most of the expenses and the city offered no remedy to her.
In March of this year, Vicki partnered with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to sue the city of McKinney arguing that she had a right to be compensated for intentional destruction of private property. The lawsuit alleges the city’s choice to destroy her home and offer no compensation violated both the United States Constitution and the Texas Constitution.
The Institute for Justice is the nation’s premier defender of property rights. At no charge to the client, IJ defends the rights of homeowners against eminent domain abuse, as in Kelo v. City of New London and Bailey v. City of Mesa; against abusive fines and fees imposed on homeowners, as in the City of Dunedin; and against abusive zoning laws, as it is doing on behalf of the Catherine H. Barber Memorial Shelter in North Carolina and on behalf of mobile-home owners in Arizona. Moreover, IJ is fighting to end the unfair governmental practice of civil forfeiture across the country.