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LAPD Repairs Home Damage From Standoff but Denies Liability

The incident reveals that the city is not liable for private property damaged during a police investigation.

Aldo Mayorga woke up on March 21 to find the streets of his neighborhood crowded with emergency vehicles and SWAT officers armed with rifles. 

While he wanted to remain uninvolved in what would become an almost nine-hour standoff, the Los Angeles Police Department officers who had swarmed the 12200 block of Cohasset and Runnymeade streets in North Hollywood were about to ask for his help, as had started that morning, and the SWAT team needed a dry place to use as a command post as they dealt with a report of one or two suspects barricaded in a home with weapons.

What Mayorga didn't realize at the time was that allowing the officers into his home would result in about $1,000 worth of water damage to his garage door and leave him without the use of his garage for two months.

He is thankful, however, that the LAPD eventually returned the favor for the help it received on the day of the standoff and helped him get a new garage door to replace the one that had become unusable. However, the police replaced the door only out of kindness, and an analysis of the incident reveals that the LAPD and city are not liable for any damages caused by the police that an innocent citizen suffers as the result of a police investigation.

An Intense Day

The rainstorm that March day was one of the worst to hit the Valley in the last year. Barricaded suspects with guns is one of the most dangerous situations police officers ever have to deal with, and the horrendous weather conditions presented police with an extra challenge.

Luckily for the LAPD, the 27-year-old Mayorga and his mother-in-law, Jane Valentine, who also lives at the house with Mayorga's wife and child, were accommodating. When Capt. Peter Whittingham of the North Hollywood Division asked the family if his team could stay in their house, Valentine quickly said yes.

"[My mother-in-law] felt safer with them in our garage than anywhere else, because we didn't know what was about to go down. We figured that if this is going to be their command center, we'll be better protected," Mayorga said. 

Mayorga said that in the midst of the standoff the family was becoming concerned about the garage door. It remained open during the day and water had built up on it. 

Whittingham assured them that if any damage were to be done to their property, he would be able to get them compensation. In late June, they were finally rewarded and their old garage door that had received the most damage was replaced for free.

"Of course we're happy … it was touch and go for a while because we didn't know what was happening." Mayorga said. "But other than [how long it took], they took care of us."

But the stresses Maryorga's family endured, as well as the owners of the apartment where the standoff occurred, seem to have been in vain. When the SWAT team converged on the apartment building located just behind Mayorga's at 2:15 p.m., the suspect or suspects inside .

Despite repeated requests from Patch, the LAPD has not provided information about what led to the standoff or the current status of the case.

According to Olga Ayala, the senior field deputy for Sun Valley and North Hollywood in Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas' office, who spoke at a North Hollywood North East Neighborhood Council meeting in May, someone had called 911 and said their roommate was trying to kill them with a gun.

Not knowing the suspect or suspects were already away, the LAPD surrounded the home and later stormed the apartment after throwing tear gas grenades inside.

LAPD Not Liable for Collateral Property Damage

According to Ayala, who asked the neighborhood council for money to help replace the door, Cardenas' office had frozen any extra spending until July and was unable to help. The council informed Ayala that their budgets would also not allow them to help until July.

The owners of the apartment were also left to foot the bill for the tear gas cleanup. Though Ayala said the Los Angeles Fire Department helped to clean up the apartment, the owners were still left with a substantial bill as most of the furniture was damaged.

Ayala said during the neighborhood council meeting that the city was not liable for any of the damages.

"Please be careful when you offer your house to the police department because there is no compensation," Ayala said. "If there's a pursuit or something and your vehicle gets damaged, you are on your own completely if you don't have insurance. The city is not liable for anything."

Emily Williams, deputy chief of staff in Cardenas' office, confirmed that the compensation Mayorga received was not because the city lawfully owed his family money. She said the LAPD just wanted to give back to the citizens who had helped them.

"We never want to punish people for doing a good deed," Williams said. "Here they were of their own volition, reaching out and doing something extremely helpful to some officers who were caught out in the rain."

Williams said LAPD headquarters agreed to pay the entire bill through a discretionary fund. On June 23, the door was installed.

Williams also said that there was not any official city policy that could help guide them through this situation because it was such a rare occurrence.

"Because it's so unusual, there is no literal 'rainy day' fund," she said.

While Mayorga said the day was tense, his family felt safe enough staying in their home.

He said he was surprised how many police officers responded to the incident. Throughout the day, there were about 20 to 30 officers inside his garage, using the dry area to plan their next moves.

"They even brought their port-o-potties," he said.

Mayorga also said he understood why the police needed to stay in the garage.

"The wind was blowing so hard, and the rain was coming straight down in nickle-size drops," Mayorga said. "If you were standing outside, you couldn't even talk to each other because of all the noise."

Marcus July 11, 2011 at 03:45 PM
So the police wasted a bunch of money, ruined property, didn't catch who they were looking for and still got paid? We live in a garbage police state...

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