This was featured on "TJ Hooker", episode 43 but conceivably could happen in real life.

The cop (Hooker) is escorting a victim, who is a diabetic. While walking, she dropped the insulin that she needs to survive. The villain picks up the insulin and sets it afire, which is tantamount to to murdering the victim, because if she loses this batch, there may or may not be time to get more. If the villain keeps the cop and victim trapped in a "stand-off," the victim will definitely die.

The cop has a clear shot at the villain. If he shoots the villain, he might retrieve the insulin and save the victim's life. If he lets the villain conduct a "siege" and tries to rescue the insulin without disabling the villain, the latter will shoot him down in cold blood.

Is this a situation where a cop is allowed to use deadly force to prevent a murder (or two)?

  • Do we know which type of diabetes the victim has (Type I or II?) If the requirement for insulin is type dependent, also let me know. I'm not read up on the disease.
    – hszmv
    Feb 22, 2019 at 14:35

1 Answer 1


Ah, but destroying the insulin is not "tantamount to to murdering the victim". Any pharmacy or hospital can supply more. Once the villain is secured, or the cop and victim are away from the villain, additional supplies can be obtained. That does not justify deadly force. (And since the T J Hooker series was set in a large US city, such supplies would have been readily available, 24/7. If the setting was far away from any such supplies, the case would be different.)

However, if the cop has plausible reason to fear that the villain will attack him or the victim, and pose a serious threat of injury or death, the cop can use as much force as is reasonably required to defend himself or the victim, including deadly force if that is needed.

He may not use more force than is reasonably required, but in practice once it is established that there was a valid threat, or reasonable grounds to believe that there was a threat, the cop's judgement on how much force was needed will only be overruled in a really egregious case.

Under current law, the cop may not use deadly force simply to stop the suspect from escaping, unless there is some unusual factor involved. I think the law may have been interpreted differently on that point when the TV show was made, in the early 1980s.

  • I clarified the question. 1) The villain plans to conduct a "siege" of cop and victim so they can't get insulin in time. 2) The cop had a potential quick shot at the villain while he was "taunting" them.
    – Libra
    Feb 22, 2019 at 17:08

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