Troopers, renter in dispute over standoff damages

KENAI — There’s a dispute on the Kenai Peninsula whether Alaska State Troopers have to pay damages for a home that was heavily damaged when they tried to arrest a man on a warrant.

Troopers finally arrested the armed James M. Cook Sr., 42, after a six-hour standoff at a home near Soldotna on Aug. 21, but the arrest only came after troopers threw canisters of chemical agents through the windows of the rented house, breaking all the windows, the Peninsula Clarion reported.

Cook didn’t live at the home, but was visiting a friend, Robin Hilton.

She said with the broken windows, other damage and chemical smell in the house, she has been living in a tent on the property and missed several days of work. Hilton now wonders where she will go, and who will pay for the damage.

Kenai Peninsula Borough clerk secretary Katie Ring said if the property damage was caused by troopers, they are responsible for the costs.

However, troopers spokesman Megan Peters says in this case, the agency won’t be paying. There are not set factors to determine whether troopers pay damages, but said she in the situation, and because of the “totality of the circumstances,” they won’t pay.

Many times, the determination of who pays is made in civil court or at sentencing, if the defendant is found guilty.

Dr. Allan Barnes, a professor at the Justice Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said in situations where law enforcement takes “unreasonable” actions to make arrests, the cost of the damages would the responsibility of that department.

But if the action is “based on probable cause and part of the procedure,” then the law enforcement agency is probably not to blame. He said in this case, he’s not sure who is liable for payment.

“My suspicion is that in the process of arresting this person and getting them convicted, that person would the probably experience the restitution for the damages that were incurred during the arrest given that he didn’t come out and just say, ‘I give up,’” Barnes said.

However, if Cook is convicted and ordered to pay restitution, it could take years for the homeowner to see the money. That could lead property owners to sue troopers.

Cook has been indicted on five counts of assault of a trooper and will be arraigned Tuesday.

The arrest warrant that troopers served last month was for domestic violence charges, including kidnapping and assault.

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