When can you use deadly force? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

When can you use deadly force?

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

July 29, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Early morning shooting brings to light a question law enforcement officers often face: When is deadly force justified? While each situation is different, shooting someone to protect property, is generally not. It would make anyone mad, watching someone break into cars. Anger that may be justified. But shooting the suspect is questionable.

"The mere taking of property in my mind and the way I interpret the codes, does not give you the right to use deadly force," said Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek, who regularly teaches classes at the Police Academy in Tifton.  He says the issue of deadly force is a frequent topic.

"If somebody is actually fleeing from a non-forcible felony, just a property theft, I think you've gone well over what you can do, either as a law enforcement officer or as a private citizen. You're no longer defending yourself against imminent danger or imminent harm, nor are you defending someone else."

So when can you shoot to protect yourself? Well, the law is pretty clear. To protect your life or your family, Anytime. But just to protect property, never. The best advice police have to give when you see someone committing a crime, is to call 911.

Phyllis Banks said, "If you do see something of this nature, someone tapering with your property, then you get a good description and report the information to the police. We don't suggest taking a gun and taking matters into your own hands."

Chief Cheek says if there is ever a question about whether an action was justified, his officers confer with the District Attorney to determine if charges should be filed. Although police have charged Underwood with Aggravated Assault, his case will likely be presented to a grand jury which will decide if he will face prosecution in the case.

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