PART D - THE USE OF DEADLY FORCE
AR 190-14 applies to "DA law enforcement and security personnel."
Deadly force is considered to be a "last resort," to be used "when all lesser means
have failed or cannot reasonably be used."
It is justified under several
circumstances. One is in self-defense "when in imminent danger of death or serious
injury." Another example is "to prevent actual theft or sabotage of property (such
as operable weapons or ammunition) which could cause deadly harm to others in the
hands of an unauthorized person." Another is "to prevent serious offenses against
a person or persons" (e.g., armed robbery, rape, or violent destruction of property
The Constitutional issue. In Tennessee v. Garner, 85 L.Ed.2d 1 (1985), the
police responded to a "prowler inside" call. It was 10: 45 P.M. Upon arriving at
the scene, the police saw a woman standing on her porch, gesturing toward an
adjacent house. She told them that someone was breaking in next door. The police
went to that house, heard a door slam, and "saw someone run across the backyard."
A police officer, with the aid of a flashlight, could see the suspect's face and
hands, saw no sign of a weapon, and "figured" the suspect was unarmed.
thought the suspect was 17-18 years old. When the officer yelled for the suspect
to halt, the individual started to climb a fence to escape. The officer then fired
a single shot, striking the suspect (a 15-year old) in the back of the head,
The officer had acted on the basis of Tennessee's "fleeing felon
The Supreme Court held that an apprehension by the use of deadly force is a
"seizure;" thus, it must meet the Fourth Amendment's standard of reasonableness.
Even if there is probable cause for the apprehension, this does not always justify
killing the suspect in the process, at least where the suspect is "nondangerous."
The Court explained:
"The use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects,
whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable...where the
suspect poses no 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...A police officer may not seize an unarmed
nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead."
UNDER THIS STANDARD, WHEN WOULD DEADLY FORCE BE AUTHORIZED IN THE
APPREHENSION OF A FLEEING FELON?
THE SUPREME COURT EXPLAINED: . "WHERE THE OFFICER HAS PROBABLE CAUSE TO
BELIEVE THAT THE SUSPECT POSES A THREAT OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL HARM, EITHER
TO THE OFFICER OR TO OTHERS, IT IS NOT CONSTITUTIONALLY UNREASONABLE TO
PREVENT ESCAPE BY USING DEADLY FORCE. THUS, IF THE SUSPECT THREATENS THE
OFFICER WITH A WEAPON OR THERE IS PROBABLE CAUSE TO BELIEVE THAT HE HAS
COMMITTED A CRIME INVOLVING THE INFLICTION OR THREATENED INFLICTION OF
SERIOUS PHYSICAL HARM. DEADLY FORCE MAY BE USED."