I-TEAM: City won’t repair damage to Jacksonville man’s property that occurred during SWAT standoff

The City of Jacksonville will not pay for or repair damage made to a man's property by the SWAT team during a standoff. Robert Vansickle says heavy machinery used by SWAT ruptured an underground sewer line, destroyed his privacy fence and cracked a concrete slab.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A homeowner turned to the News4Jax I-TEAM after the city of Jacksonville refused to repair damage to his property caused by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office SWAT team in July.

Robert Vansickle, an Army veteran, said heavy machinery that the SWAT team used ruptured an underground sewer line and damaged his privacy fence and a concrete slab. This happened while police attempted to apprehend a murder suspect who had no connection to his neighborhood.

That suspect -- 27-year-old Ronnie Johnson, who didn’t live in the Northside neighborhood -- was found hiding underneath a mobile home next door to the Vansickle family before being taken into custody.

Vansickle said the SWAT team used his backyard to stage during the standoff, and the suspect never stepped foot on his property.

″I had one on the front porch two on the roof, and two on my garage,” Vansickle said.

He said JSO’s Bobcat took out 80 feet of his privacy fence and damaged a concrete block. He said the heavy machinery also ruptured the sewer line that runs from his septic tank to his house.

“Since then, I haven’t been able to use my bathroom in the master. I just get backflow from the toilet,” Vansickle said.

Vansickle said he filed a claim with the city of Jacksonville for repairs to his property and received a letter from the city’s Risk Management Division which reads in part: “I must advise you your claim is being denied. The fault is with Mr. Ronnie Lee Johnson Jr. the fugitive that was captured. To file restitution against Mr. Johnson you would need to reach out to the State Attorney’s office.”

Vansickle said Johnson, who is currently in the Duval County jail on a murder charge, will never be able to pay him back. He said he can’t afford to fight for that money in court and said the city knows that.

He said he doesn’t blame JSO for doing its job but feels like the city is passing the buck to a murder suspect.

“For them to tell me they are not going to fix my property, which has no ties at all to the suspect -- the suspect never even came on my property -- for them not to pay for my damage, I work as a pizza delivery driver, I don’t have the money to pay for all this,” Vansickle said.

The I-TEAM has been going back and forth with the city of Jacksonville.

We were told the officers were chasing a fugitive at the time and did not act in a negligent manner and would not be paying for the repairs.

Again, Vansickle doesn’t blame officers for doing their job, but he’s stuck with an expensive mess that he feels the city should pay to fix.

We then asked if the city would pay for the immediate repairs and then have the city be paid back from the suspect. We were told no.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.