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Tennessee v. Garner

Citation. 471 U.S. 1, 105 S. Ct. 1694, 85 L. Ed. 2d 1, 1985 U.S. 195.
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Brief Fact Summary.

Police officer Elton Hymon (Hymon) shot and killed suspected burglar, Edward Garner (Garner), as he was fleeing the scene of the crime.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Deadly force cannot be used to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon, unless it is necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.


Police Officers Hymon and Leslie Wright responded to a call of a prowler. When they arrived on the scene, a woman was standing on her porch pointing toward the adjacent house and stating that she heard glass breaking and that someone was breaking in next door. Hymon went behind the house. He heard a door slam and saw someone run across the backyard. Hymon told the suspect to halt, but he began to climb over a fence in the backyard. Even though Hymon was reasonably sure that Garner was unarmed, he shot him in the back of the head to prevent escape.


Is a statute permitting deadly force to be used to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon constitutional?


No. Hymon was acting under the authority of statute in using deadly force to stop Garner from fleeing. Said statute permits an unreasonable seizure of a defendant in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Constitution). A police officer may only use deadly force if it is necessary to prevent escape and the fleeing felon poses physical danger to the officer or others. Here, Garner posed no such risk.


As a last resort, shooting a burglary suspect fleeing the scene of the crime is reasonable and constitutionally permissible.


Deadly force must only be used to prevent a fleeing felon from causing death or serious injury to the pursuing officer or others.

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