ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An Albuquerque man whose home was damaged when two teens in a stolen police bait car crashed into it was surprised to learn the city was not liable for the damage.
Peter Kopczuk said his wife woke him up around 5 a.m. on July 15 after hearing a loud crash.
"The officer said, 'Well, your house has been run into,'" Kopczuk told KRQE News 13.
The errant driver and passenger were a couple of teens the Albuquerque Police Department said stole a bait car planted to catch car thieves.
According to police the crash happened when the pair was trying to switch seats while the car was still moving.
"They never hit the brakes and just ran into the garage, which in turn hit my wife's vehicle, which was inside pushed that up against the wall of the garage, did damage there and cracked the tile on the inside of the bathroom," Kopczuk said.
Kopczuk said the officers on scene told him there was nothing to worry about because it was a city-owned vehicle and they're insured, so everything would be taken care of.
Armed with that information, he filed a claim with the city assuming they would pay for the thousands of dollars in damaged caused by its bait car.
He was wrong.
"We got a letter from a law firm saying that the city is not responsible in any way, shape or form and that we should go to our own personal homeowners insurance," said Kopczuk.
That's because even though it is a city car, it was not a city of Albuquerque employee behind the wheel.
City Attorney David Tourek told KRQE News 13 the liability lies with the teens that caused the crash.
"There were two individuals, drunk individuals, driving around in a car they stole, and they crashed it because they were switching seats, not because they were being pursued," Tourek said.
Kopczuk says while that maybe the law, he feels the city could have handled the case a lot better. Now he feels victimized again.
"We're put in this position to deal with our own insurance company and our own resources to fix a problem we had no control over," he said.
Another concern this incident raised for Kopczuk was why APD allowed the bait car to end up in a residential neighborhood and cause this problem to begin with.
He said it was actually a good thing the teens hit his house because had they crashed into his next door neighbors house things could have been much worse.
"We just need to deal with how we can stop this from happening in the future," he said.
The city attorney told News 13 the officer was following department procedure and waiting on back up before initiating a traffic stop.
In addition, Tourek said there was not immediate threat to public safety.
"The vehicle was not driving recklessly, the vehicle was not driving at a high rate of speed, and so there was no reason, there was no urgency for the officer to engage," said Tourek.
When all is said and done the cost to repair everything at Kopczuk's home will hit nearly $10,000.
"I can see wanting to catch thieves and criminals, but at this point it was an expense to my wife and I and our insurance company and nothing to the city," Kopczuk said.
Tourek said insurance companies do have the ability to file their own claims with the city to try and regain some of the money they pay out in claims.
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