Tenessee v garner apply for citizens?

Okay brief background, I currently work at a gun store in Utah and always carry a firearm while working as per our policy. My co workers and I always discuss potential scenarios and how we might act to them, so my question is if someone comes into a gun store and steals a firearm and runs out the door with it they are actively committing a felony, I haven’t done a background check on them I know nothing about them they could cause great bodily injury to myself co workers or general public, especially if they have loaded magazines for said gun in a pocket or something unbeknownst to me. In this circumstance would it be justified to shoot or would it be considered theft in regards to a firearm. And would Tennesse V Garner apply as a citizen and not being part of law enforcement or is that Supreme Court case only applicable for law enforcement while in official capacity?


@Kevin472 Welcome to the community. First of all, know your Utah State gun laws. Furthermore, it’s great to legally carry a firearm while employed in the gun store, and most importantly, follow all company policy. That POLICY should have RULES AND REGULATIONS of some sort that pertains to certain actions and how to handle situations of sorts, maybe including training and tutorials that are presented to all employees at meetings, that’s if your company holds mandatory employee meetings of some sort. Does this happen? Your company, hopefully, trains on how to handle situations, the DO’s and DON’Ts, CANs and CAN’Ts. You have great questions, and it’s best asking you’re supervisor of what actions can legally be taken within the confines of the gun store AND the outside parking lot property.


Hello and welcome @Kevin472
Great OP.
I’m not a lawyer but I’ll see if I can scrounge one up to give you an answer.
Please stand by…….



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" In this circumstance would it be justified to shoot "

I am not a lawer.

This is not legal advice.

I cannot will not am not interpreting the law. I’m just some user name on the internet.

Answer: No.

A key word to remember that generally applies to any use of force, let alone lethal force, is imminent. For lethal force it’s going to be something like, imminent deadly threat, or imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death. A guy running away, out the door running away, and with what I infer is an unloaded gun at that…how is that an imminent threat?

As a general rule, also, you cannot use lethal force because of “might” or “could”, like, the person “might” have something you don’t know about or they “could” do something different in the future than they are doing now…not good ground to be standing on. The person behind you in line at the grocery store waiting to check out might have a concealed knife in their pocket and they could pull it out and stab you in the kidney with it at any moment. Probably a bad idea to pull your gun out and shoot them because of might, maybe, could.

Also it’s generally a reasonable fear of (as in, reasonably articuable belief of) imminent serious bodily harm/death to use lethal force. That word reasonable is where you probably filter out the might/could/maybe/I don’t know as supposed reasons

Again I’m not a lawyer or anything but if I’m in the jury or in the court of public opinion, it looks to me like you are shooting over stuff defense (instead of self defense) or using your crystal ball to predict the future and potentially kill a man as part of Tom Cruise’s future crimes division


I agree with @Nathan57. @Kevin472 , how could you articulate an imminent threat to yourself or others? In your scenario, he just committed felony theft.


Welcome to the Community :handshake:

That’s a good question indeed… but I think wrong place to seek an answer that makes your actions trusted or legal.

Talk to your team, your supervisor and the lawyer who eventually will represent you in court. Don’t take advices that may work for us and could be against your policy or Laws.

I know… this is not helpful… but perhaps lack of information found here will keep you out of jail.


As far as i know one cannot shoot someone for stealing. I would treat it the same as if it was his own gun and he was trying to get away. Welcome to the community. Stay safe learn the laws.
On a side note I carry a gun to save lives not enforce the laws.


Maybe encourage the boss to have electronic locks installed. Slap the button and draw.


…why would you prevent a potentially dangerous criminal from escaping your space?

This sounds like the exact opposite of avoidance. Instead of letting the fleeing criminal flee…you are going to corner him with you?

I’d…rather not


I suspect your employer would not want you to shoot, as your employer would be on the receiving end of a civil suit both as the individual with the deepest pocket and the one who, per policy as you described, required all his employees to be armed. For your employer, it would simply be the loss of a firearm against getting to spend beaucoups dollars making his lawyers’ boat payment.

I suggest that you ask your employer, “Hey boss! If someone steals a gun from the store and runs out the front door, is it OK to shoot him?” The answer he gives you may also involve looking for another job.


I’m an attorney, albeit not in Utah. This scenario (in my state) would be an absolute no-go. The perpetrator in this instance is guilty of larceny, which is not considered a dangerous crime. The imminent threat harm is not met, as the person is running away from the victim “the store”, and there is no imminent threat to anyone else that would extend your right to self-defense. If the perpetrator stole the gun and you pursued (reasonable force is allowed for recovery of stolen property), and the perpetrator then loaded the weapon and turned on you, it’s a different scenario. A lot of variables to factor into that scenario, too. Your employer has insurance for a reason.


Hey @Jason328 . Welcome to the Community. :handshake:

Thx for a great input. ! :point_up:


Hello and welcome @Jason328

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Ask and ye shall receive… :wink:


I’m from Utah, I’m not a lawyer but I have read the laws. To me there is a rule of thumb that I personally would adhere to “NEVER EVER shoot a retreating assailant”. There may be a timing thing involved, I would think a “Forcible Felony” was occurring when he took the gun, but after that, when he retreated I would think it would be tough to call it “Forcible”.

Effective 5/4/2022
76-2-402. Force in defense of person – Forcible felony defined.

(1) As used in this section:

(a) “Forcible felony” means aggravated assault, mayhem, aggravated murder, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, rape of a child, object rape, object rape of a child, sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and aggravated sexual assault as defined in Chapter 5, Offenses Against the Individual, and arson, robbery, and burglary as defined in Chapter 6, Offenses Against Property.

(b) “Forcible felony” includes any other felony offense that involves the use of force or violence against an individual that poses a substantial danger of death or serious bodily injury.

(c) “Forcible felony” does not include burglary of a vehicle, as defined in Section 76-6-204, unless the vehicle is occupied at the time unlawful entry is made or attempted.

(2) (a) An individual is justified in threatening or using force against another individual when and to the extent that the individual reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the individual or another individual against the imminent use of unlawful force.

(b) An individual is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the individual reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the individual or another individual as a result of imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.



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Tennessee v. Garner specifically applies to law enforcement and does not apply to the general public. State use of force laws would apply to civilians.
That said it would be a rare circumstances where there’s justification to shoot a fleeing target.
As a side note, while Garner is the law, the officer who shot him didn’t know if the victim a victim of petty theft, rape or murder.


Thank you for chiming in @MikeBKY