Tennessee v. Garner Case Brief

Facts of the case

These are two consolidated cases against different defendants involving the same incident. During a chase, police officer Elton Hymon shot 15-year-old Edward Eugene Garner with a hollow tip bullet to prevent Garner from escaping over a fence. Garner was suspected of burglarizing a nearby house. Hymon admitted that before he shot he saw no evidence that Garner was armed and figuredhe was unarmed. The bullet hit Garner in the back of the head. Garner was taken to the hospital where he died a short time later.Garner’s father sued seeking damages for violations of Garner’s constitutional rights. The district court entered judgment for the defendants because Tennessee law authorized Hymon’s actions. The court also felt that Garner had assumed the risk of being shot by recklessly attempting to escape. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that killing a fleeing suspect is a seizureunder the Fourth Amendment and such a seizure would only be reasonable if the suspect posed a threat to the safety of police officers or the community at large.

Why is the case important?

The officers in question shot an unarmed suspected felon. This case was instituted by the victim’s family alleging that the victim’s constitutional rights were violated by the officers.


Whether law enforcement officials can use deadly force to prevent the escape of an unarmed suspected felon under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.


The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
The reasonableness of a search and seizure had to be determined looking at the manner of the search and how it is carried out.


The apprehension of a suspect is a seizure for the purposes of the Constitution and the use of deadly force to achieve a seizure is only permitted under certain circumstances. The Fourth Amendment allows the use of deadly force to apprehend felons who the police have probable cause to believe are dangerous to them or to the public. The shooting of appellee’s son, who was a suspect in a burglary, was not an acceptable use of deadly force.

  • Advocates: W. J. Michael Cody on behalf of appellants in 83-1035 Henry I. Klein on behalf of petitioners in 83-1070 Steven L. Winter on behalf of appellees in 83-1035 and respondents in 83-1070 Wj Michael Cody on behalf of appellants in 83-1035 Henry L. Klein for petitioners in No. 83-1070
  • Appellant: Tennessee
  • Appellee: Garner
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: House where alleged robbery took place
Citation: 471 US 1 (1985)
Argued: Oct 30, 1984
Decided: Mar 27, 1985
Tennessee v. Garner Case Brief