I-TEAM: City reverses denial, will work with JSO to fix property damage SWAT left behind

Jacksonville homeowner says SWAT team broke fence, sewer line while capturing murder suspect

Robert Vansickle said heavy machinery that the SWAT team used ruptured an underground sewer line and damaged his privacy fence and a concrete slab. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are new developments in a News4Jax I-TEAM investigation after a Dinsmore man said the city of Jacksonville refused to pay to repair his fence and yard that were damaged during a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office SWAT standoff.

When the story first aired a few weeks ago, the city had denied Robert Vansickle’s claim for reimbursement. But after seeing the story, the city’s Risk Management Department has reversed its denial, saying it will help resolve the issue after learning more information from watching the I-TEAM report and discussions with JSO.

In early July, JSO’s SWAT team used Vansickle’s backyard as a staging area before taking a wanted murder suspect into custody -- who was hiding under a neighbor’s mobile home. The suspect never stepped foot on Vansickle’s property and had no relationship to the neighborhood.

Vansickle said that JSO’s Bobcat not only demolished 80 feet of fence in his backyard, he said the heavy machinery damaged an underground sewer line to his house -- which makes him unable to flush his toilet in his master bedroom.

In a new letter from the city, Risk Management writes:

“After reviewing recently received after action reports, and after discussions with JSO, it was determined that there was no crime committed on your property. Additionally, there were facts relayed to the media that Risk Management was not made aware of. Based on this new information, we will be working with JSO to determine damage to your property and come to an appropriate resolution in the near future. In the meantime, we will have two sewage companies inspect the damages you referenced concerning your sewage line issues.”

Vansickle, who works as a pizza delivery driver, told the I-TEAM he simply couldn’t afford to pay for the damage to his property. When News4Jax spoke with him by phone about the city’s latest decision, he said he is very pleased that the city has opened up the lines of communication and is willing to work this out.

In the meantime, the I-TEAM has learned Vansickle’s neighbor’s home, which was unoccupied at the time of the standoff, was also damaged that day. The I-TEAM will follow whether the city’s Risk Management Department agrees to pay for those damages, as well.

About the Author:

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