When can officers use deadly force?

(Metro Police/FOX 17 News)

There’s a public outcry by some for justice following the officer-involved shooting of Daniel Hambrick by Officer Andrew Delke.

“Daniel runs, which is still not illegal. You can run,” said attorney Joy Kimbrough.

But despite the emotional pleas from a family in mourning and some community leaders, the law doesn’t necessarily agree. According to state law (TCA 39-11-620), an officer may use deadly force to arrest someone if they run from them or resist arrest.

“There is a specific narrow test for when an officer can use deadly force,” said lawyer Rachel Stephens.

Stephens worked in the Davidson County District Attorney’s office for 11 years and has worked cases where officers have used deadly force. When determining if an officer must face charges, Stephens says the DA considers if the officer used all means to stop the suspect; if he identified himself as an officer and stated he would use deadly force; does he believe the person will cause serious bodily harm to the officer or community.

“That’s the hardest decision anyone will ever make,” said Melvin Brown, Jr., former Metro officer.

Brown says he’s been in those shoes before as an officer and retired soldier. He tells FOX 17 News in a split second, the officer considers his safety and the community’s safety as well. Brown explained it’s a choice that haunts everyone.

“They have to weigh - in an instant - the totality of circumstances and make a decision that’s going to be life or death. It could be their life or death and certainly could be life or death for other persons. There’s going to be almost a grieving period as if you lost someone,” said Brown.

“Someone being shot in the back and they are running way from someone, that does not justify someone losing their life,” said Councilwoman Karen Johnson.

No matter what side of the argument you are on, it’s now up to the district attorney to make the call.

“You’ve got to just be able to sit with the facts and the evidence. You don’t get to consider emotions and you don’t get to consider what a family might think, what the rest of the police department might think. Our job is to look at the facts and see how the law applies to those facts,” said Stephens.

Stephens said if a shooting is considered justified then that officer can be immune from a civil case at a later date.

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