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Thomas Kopylov
Thomas Kopylov

Deadly Force (1983)



Stoney Cooper, a former Los Angeles police officer, is at a low point in his life. Kicked off the force because of his anti-authority attitude, he now ekes out a living as a freelancer in New York. All this changes when the daughter of an old friend is killed by serial killer terrorizing L.A. Although almost nobody in his old home town is happy to see him back, Cooper pledges to bring the killer to justice before any more innocent people die.




Deadly Force (1983)



Stoney Cooper (Wings Hauser) is an ex-cop ex-husband making a living as a Private Eye cum vigilante in New York. When he hears that the duaghter of his friend Sam (Al Ruscio) has been murdered in L.A by a serial killer called 'X', Cooper flies out to investigate - though his help is not at all appreciated. His ex-wife Eddie doesn't want him there, his ex-Captain threatens to arrest him, and the local mob boss he had previously rubbed the wrong way is out to get him. Once he starts getting too close to the killer, he finds himself being shot at by even more people. Can Cooper catch the guy that a whole police force seems cannot?


Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a police officer may use deadly force to prevent the escape of a fleeing suspect only if the officer has a good-faith belief that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.


A state police officer shot and killed Garner as he was fleeing the scene of the crime. Despite knowing that Garner was unarmed, the police officer believed that he was justified in shooting him to prevent his escape. Garner's father brought a constitutional challenge to the Tennessee statute that authorized the use of deadly force in this situation. The state prevailed in the trial court, but the state appellate court ruled that the statute was unconstitutional.


When a non-violent felon is ordered to stop and submit to police, ignoring that order does not give rise to a reasonable good-faith belief that the use of deadly force is necessary, unless it has been threatened.


This decision responded to the evolution of the common law, which formerly imposed a death sentence for most felonies. Shooting a non-violent fleeing felon historically would have been permitted because it would have been the same result as if he had been caught and convicted. This is no longer the situation, and the Supreme Court adjusted the rule regarding the use of deadly force to account for it.


A Tennessee statute provides that, if, after a police officer has given notice of an intent to arrest a criminal suspect, the suspect flees or forcibly resists, "the officer may use all the necessary means to effect the arrest." Acting under the authority of this statute, a Memphis police officer shot and killed appellee-respondent Garner's son as, after being told to halt, the son fled over a fence at night in the backyard of a house he was suspected of burglarizing. The officer used deadly force despite being "reasonably sure" the suspect was unarmed and thinking that he was 17 or 18 years old, and of slight build. The father subsequently brought an action in Federal District Court, seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for asserted violations of his son's constitutional rights. The District Court held that the statute and the officer's actions were constitutional. The Court of Appeals reversed.


Held: The Tennessee statute is unconstitutional insofar as it authorizes the use of deadly force against, as in this case, an apparently unarmed, nondangerous fleeing suspect; such force may not be used unless necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others. Pp. 7-22.


(a) Apprehension by the use of deadly force is a seizure subject to the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness requirement. To determine whether such a seizure is reasonable, the extent of the intrusion on the suspect's rights under that Amendment must be balanced against the governmental interests in effective law enforcement. This balancing process demonstrates that, notwithstanding probable cause to seize a suspect, an officer may not always do so by killing him. The use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. Pp. 7-12.


(b) The Fourth Amendment, for purposes of this case, should not be construed in light of the common law rule allowing the use of whatever force is necessary to effect the arrest of a fleeing felon. Changes in the legal and technological context mean that that rule is distorted almost beyond recognition when literally applied. Whereas felonies were formerly capital crimes, few are now, or can be, and many crimes classified as misdemeanors, or nonexistent, at common law are now felonies. Also, the common law rule developed at a time when weapons were rudimentary. And, in light of the varied rules adopted in the States indicating a long-term movement away from the common law rule, particularly in the police departments themselves, that rule is a dubious indicium of the constitutionality of the Tennessee statute. There is no indication that holding a police practice such as that authorized by the statute unreasonable will severely hamper effective law enforcement. Pp. 12-20.


"Deadly Force" is a thoroughly routine B cop movie from the 1980s, with thoroughly routine characters. This starts with our hero, Stoney Cooper (Wings Hauser), your standard-issue maverick cop character who has issues with such things as authority and procedures. Living in NYC, he returns to LA to help an old friend (Al Ruscio, "The Godfather Part III") when the latters' granddaughter is the latest victim of a serial killer. Upon his return to the City of Angels, he tries to start over with his fed-up estranged wife (Joyce Ingalls, "Paradise Alley"), and is hassled by his former commanding officer (Lincoln Kilpatrick, "The Omega Man").One gets no points for connecting the dots in this patently predictable storyline. But, as cliched and unoriginal as this feature is, it entertains in basically adequate fashion. Even lacking style, its action sequences are basically decent enough; the director is Paul Aaron, who'd previously directed Chuck Norris in "A Force of One". (He must have liked titles using the word "force".) The supporting cast is fine - deep-voiced Paul Shenar is cast as a unsubtly menacing motivational speaker - but what really makes the difference is Wings. He'd been such a memorable villain in "Vice Squad" a year previous, and got boosted to star status here. He's not the ultra-macho mass of muscle one often sees in action movies, but he does have an amusing personality and the same kind of tenacity that served him so well when he played "Ramrod".Familiar actors such as Ned Eisenberg ("The Burning") and Paul Benjamin ("Escape from Alcatraz") have small roles; 'Golden Girls' fans will have the delight of seeing Estelle Getty in a brief role near the beginning of "Deadly Force" as a live-wire cabbie.The screenplay is credited to Ken Barnett, Robert Vincent O'Neil, and Barry Schneider; Sandy Howard was the producer. O'Neil and Howard were also veterans of "Vice Squad", so "Deadly Force" was a reunion of them and Hauser. The combination of talents here doesn't yield the same incendiary results, but if you adore 80s B cop flicks, you can definitely do worse than this one.Five out of 10.


What we have here is a typical run-of-the-mill eighties crime/action/thriller from the somewhat lower budget regions. The plot involves a (very active) serial killer running amok in L.A. One of the apparently random victims, being killed at the very start of the movie, is the granddaughter of an ex-thief. Granddaddy then calls in the help of Stoney Jackson Cooper (Wings Hauser), a former hard-boiled cop from the L.A. police force who doesn't like playing by the rules. When he arrives in L.A., the authorities, local criminals as well as his (soon-to-be) ex-wife are not too happy with his return. But Stoney doesn't care. He's got a job to do and a promise to keep: track down the vile killer and put a stop to his activities.The story bounces to the left & the right at an uneven pace, but still manages to be quite coherent and even turn in a twist at the start of the third act (albeit one you'll probably see coming). Wings Hauser is in top shape in this one and pretty much owns the movie. One scene has him relaxing in a bath tub, and then going after the killer butt-naked after the whole loft has been shot to pieces during the killer's surprise attack. Even a pretty decent but obviously very standard climax is added to the mix (Wings vs. the killer, after his true identity is exposed). Other forms of entertainment, aside from shooting & killing, are included also, like a soft-core sex-scene (Wings & Joyce Ingalls) and an obligatory car crash/explosion. Yes, "Deadly Force" does its best to play it right.Sadly, one of the worst aspects of "Deadly Force" is the musical score. The main theme - if you can call it that - doesn't work at all. It's too rocky & funky and is used too often & inappropriately (even during the climactic fight & chase scene at the end). It gives the film a much sillier & dated vibe than it should have. A more gritty & tense analog synth score would have worked wonders, I'm sure. But in the end, "Deadly Force" is much more entertaining than it's poor rating on here would lead you to believe. And it's mainly thanks to Wings Hauser and a typical B-movie script that at least tries to make things work.


The Court of Appeals concluded that the rule set out in the Model Penal Code "accurately states Fourth Amendment limitations on the use of deadly force against fleeing felons." 710 F.2d, at 247. The relevant portion of the Model Penal Code provides:


"The use of deadly force is not justifiable . . . unless (i) the arrest is for a felony; and (ii) the person effecting the arrest is authorized to act as a peace officer; or is assisting a person whom he believes to be authorized to act as a peace officer, and (iii) the actor believes that the force employed creates no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons; and (iv) the actor believes that (1) the crime for which the arrest is made involved conduct including the use or threatened use of deadly force; or (2) there is a substantial risk that the person to be arrested will cause death or serious bodily harm if his apprehension is delayed." American Law Institute, Model Penal Code 3.07(2)(b) (Proposed Official Draft 1962). 041b061a72


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