A small time trucker has asked the Supreme Court to reopen his lawsuit against the DEA after they used one of his trucks without his permission during a botched drug sting and later refused to pay for the substantial damages incurred when the truck’s driver was shot to death inside by cartel members.
DEA Commandeered Truck For Drug Sting Without Owner’s Permission
The 2011 drug sting began when company owner Craig Patty hired Lawrence Chapa as a truck driver, not knowing that Chapa was secretly working as a government informant. Without Patty’s knowledge or permission, Chapa used a company truck to haul marijuana across the border as part of an undercover operation to arrest drug cartel members. While under the watch of officers from the Drug Task Force, Los Zetas cartel soldiers ran Chapa’s truck off the road. In the ensuing fire fight, a Sheriff’s deputy was wounded and Chapa was shot 8 times and killed. Four of the soldiers were arrested and charged with capitol murder. The truck Chapa was driving was severely damaged during the gun fight.
DEA Refused To Pay Trucker For Damages
Patty says that the DEA has refused to pay for damages to his truck or to offer him protection from the cartel. His insurance company also refused to pay for the damages because they happened during the commission of a crime — even through it happened without Patty’s knowledge. Patty was forced to take money out of his retirement account to pay for the repairs.
Courts Have Sided With DEA So Far
In April 2015, a Houston federal judge ruled that the DEA owed Patty nothing.
In March 2016, Patty’s lawsuit against the DEA was dismissed by a New Orleans federal appeals court judge.
Supreme Court To Hand Down Ultimate Decision On DEA Culpability
Now Patty has brought the case before the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of receiving $6.4 million in restitution and for government protection from the cartel. According to court documents, Patty’s case hinges on the government’s liability “when a federally deputized, municipal law enforcement official commandeers a private citizen’s truck for a Justice Department operation and neglects to inform the owner or otherwise to obtain his consent for the use of the truck.”
The Houston Chronicle