Cleamtee GARNER, et al.
471 U.S. 1, 105 S. Ct 1694, 85 L.Ed.2d 1
Argued Oct. 30, 1984
Decided March 27, 1985
A case in which the court ruled that a Tennessee “fleeing felon” law was unconstitutional because it legalize the use of deadly force by police when a suspect poses no immediate threat to the police or others. The court ruled that the use of deadly force was a Fourth Amendment seizure issue subject to a finding of “ reasonableness.” Father, whose unarmed son was shot by police officer as son was fleeing from the burglary of an unoccupied house, brought wrongful death action under the federal civil right statute against the police officer who fired the shot, the police department and others. The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Harry W. Wellford, J., after remand, rendered judgement for defendant, and father appealed. The Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit, and remanded. Certiorari was granted. The Supreme Court held that: apprehension by use of deadly force is a seizure subject to the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement; deadly force may not be used 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;
Tennessee statute under authority of which police officer fired fatal shot was unconstitutional because it authorized use of deadly force against apparently unarmed, non dangerous fleeing suspect; the fact that unarmed suspect had broken into a dwelling at night did not automatically mean that he was dangerous. At about 10:45 p.m. on October 3, 1974, Memphis Police Officers Elton Hymon and Leslie Wright were dispatched to answer a prowler inside call. The fleeing suspect, who was appellee-respondent’s decedent, Edward Garner, stopped at a 6-feet-high chain link fence at the edge of he yard. With the aid of a flashlight, Hymon was able to