Tennessee vs. Garner
471 U.S 1, 1985
On October 3, 1974, around 10:45 pm the Memphis Police got a call about a "prowler inside call." Police officers Elton Hymon and Leslie Wright were dispatched to answer the call. Upon arriving at the scene, there was a woman standing on her porch and gesturing toward the house next door, she told them she had heard glass breaking and that "they" or "someone" was breaking in next door. While Wright radioed in, Hymon went back behind the house. He heard a door slam and saw someone run across the backyard. The fleeing suspect, who was Edward Garner, stopped at a 6-feet-high chain link fence at the edge of the yard. With the use of a flashlight, Hymon was able to see Garner's face and hands there was no sign of a weapon, although Hymon was not certain that Garner was unarmed. He thought Garner was either 17 or 18 years old and about 5' 5" or 5' 7" tall. While Garner was crouched at the base of the fence, Hymon called out "police, halt" and took a few steps toward him and Garner then began to climb over the fence. Convinced that, if Garner made it over the fence, he would escape Hymon then shot him. The bullet hit Garner in the back of the head and Garner was taken to a hospital, where he died on the operating table. Ten dollars and a purse taken from the house were found on his body.
The Tennessee police department has a statute or policy that states "[i]f, after notice of the intention to arrest the defendant, he either flee or forcibly resist, the officer may use all the necessary means to effect the arrest." Hymon was just following the policy to use deadly force to pervert one to escape. The Department policy was slightly more restrictive than the statute, but still allowed the use of deadly force in cases of burglary. The incident was reviewed by the Memphis Police Firearm's Review Board...