Widow Loses Suit Over Post-Shoot-Out Ruin

     TAMPA, Fla. (CN) – A Florida woman whose house was demolished after her late husband killed two police officers in a shootout cannot pursue federal claims against local officials, a federal judge ruled.
     Police officers went to Christine Lacy’s home in St. Petersburg, Fla., in January 2011 to arrest her husband on unspecified felony charges.
     The officers asked Lacy to leave the house after she told them that she feared her husband, who was likely armed. Lacy’s husband and two officers died in a subsequent shootout at the house, according to a complaint Lacy filed this year in state court. Lacy claimed she was never allowed back in the house, and that the St. Petersburg Police Department and former Mayor Bill Foster decided to demolish the house and destroy its contents shortly after the shootout. Although Foster promised Lacy that she would be “made whole,” the city never honored the promise, according to Lacy’s complaint.
     The city, Mayor Foster and former Police Chief Chuck Harmon removed Lacy’s suit to federal court and moved to dismiss.
     U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington ruled Thursday that Lacy’s federal claims were not ripe for review.
     Since Lacy has not exhausted state-law remedies such as seeking just compensation under an inverse-condemnation claim, federal takings and procedural due-process claims are premature, the 26-page ruling states.
     Lacy failed to prove that state procedures, which may place caps on recoverable damages and attorneys’ fees, are inadequate, the court found.
     What’s more, since Lacy did not show that Mayor Foster and Chief Harmon violated clearly established due-process rights, the officials are entitled to qualified immunity, Covington said.
     Lacy’s federal claims against the city meanwhile failed because she failed to show that a city policy or custom caused the alleged constitutional violations, according to the ruling.
     Lacy may pursue the remaining state-law claims in state court, the court said.
     Attorneys for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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