AMENDMENT 4 Search and Seizure
To stop a suspect from getting away, police shoot 15-year old Edward Garner, in the back of the head, dead. In Tennessee, that is legal.
471 U.S. 1 (1985)
“The officer may use all the necessary means to effect the arrest of a fleeing suspect.” — Tennessee statute: Police Department policy.
(1:00) — Memphis, Tennessee, 1974. Police are looking for a prowler. They spot an unarmed teenager in the back yard. He tries to get away, climbing over a chain-link fence. A policeman shoots the boy in the back of the head.
That’s legal, according to Tennessee law: “If, after notice of the intention to arrest the defendant, he either flees or forcibly resists, the officer may use all the necessary means to effect the arrest.” The defendant, 15-year-old Edward Garner, dies on the operating table. His father sues.
In 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court declares: “The use of deadly force is a self-defeating way of apprehending a suspect and so setting the criminal justice mechanism in motion.” Justice Byron White writes: “The use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so. It is no doubt unfortunate when a suspect who is in sight escapes, but the fact that the police arrive a little late or are a little slower afoot does not always justify killing the suspect. A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead.”
Police Use of Nondeadly Force to Arrest – Fighting Police Abuse