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Lake City woman faces lien for home damaged by police

10:34 AM, Jul 13, 2012   |    comments
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LAKE CITY, Fla. -- During September 2011, the landscape on NW Irma Avenue in Lake City changed. 

"I've stayed pretty much silent for the last ten months," said Natalie Custer.

Custer lived on Irma when Lake City police were serving an injunction on her estranged husband Jesse Custer. It turned into a seven-hour standoff where three officers were wounded and Custer took his own life.

"My whole world was shattered in one day. I just couldn't believe it was happening," said Custer.

She and her children were safe, but her home was badly damaged in the process by police equipment. It sat in disrepair for months until the city started getting complaints.

Larry Lee, Lake City's director of growth management, said the property, even though it was unoccupied, had become a safety hazard.

"I made a determination that it was in danger of collapse," Lee said, "and being a nuisance in the neighborhood, I made a decision."

Lee said his office issued citations and asked for plans to restore the house; when they saw none, the city decided to demolish the house.

"She had at least three or four months to come in compliance and nothing happened," said Lee.

Lake City is now asking Custer to reimburse the city $2,205.16, the cost of the demolition. Custer has broken her silence to protest what she calls an injustice.

"I don't think it is fair because I was not the one that destroyed my house," said Custer.

Custer feels she wasn't given enough time. Now her home is gone and she's facing a lien on the property from the city.

"Taxpayers' money has got to be recovered," said Lee.

Lee said there is no provision in the city's budget or ordinances that allows the city to pay for damage caused by law enforcement. He said what the city is doing is perfectly legal. 

In Custer's eyes it may be legal, but it isn't fair to her and her children.

First Coast News

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