Renters: Police didn't do enough to protect items left in condemned building

Posted at 7:49 PM, Mar 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-07 21:56:38-05

Some Valley renters feel like they’ve just been victimized twice – once by an accused slumlord and the second time by the very process set in motion to help them.

People were forced out of an apartment building near downtown Phoenix after the city condemned it in January.

Without a new place to move their belongings on such short notice, many residents left their things behind until they could make arrangements. Within 24 hours, burglars broke in and took everything of value.

“That night they moved us out that's when they broke in,” said Pedro Cons, who was living in the building when it was condemned for fire code violations. “I came back [two days later] with a police escort because they had the keys… all the doors broke in. Everything was broke.”

Phoenix police ended up arresting the apartment owner, Elijah Brown, who is accused of running a massive scheme that preyed on vulnerable and low-income adults.

Despite the barbed wire around the property today, Cons felt like there was no serious effort to protect the property while tenant belongings were still there.

“I talked to four different police officers and each one of them told me they're going to have security here 24/7,” said Cons.

On Tuesday, Phoenix police told us officers at the time instructed people to take everything they could and make arrangements to move the rest soon. However, according to police, property was secondary to the primary concern of making sure all the tenants were safe and had a place to go.

Attorney Robert Sewell, with Davis Miles in Tempe, isn't connected to this case. But he said the residents are likely out of luck.

“The tenants would have to show that the government did something negligent, that they did something wrong - that they undertook to secure the building but then didn't secure it properly,” said Sewell.

Cons said it wasn’t his choice to leave in the first place, so it’s hard to understand why there’s no help.

“I think they should be held accountable for all of us,” said Cons, talking about the City of Phoenix.

Phoenix police said the suspect is still on the loose.