Georgia Officer Indicted In Fatal Shooting Of U.S. Air Force Vet
(CNN) — A Georgia police officer was indicted Thursday on murder charges in the fatal shooting of Anthony Hill, a U.S. Air Force veteran who was naked and apparently unarmed when he was killed.
The DeKalb County grand jury indicted DeKalb County police Officer James Olsen on two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of making a false statement, and two counts of violation of oath by a public officer, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced.
James said Olsen will be the first Georgia law enforcement officer in five years prosecuted for fatally shooting a civilian while on duty.
Hill’s killing led to protests in Atlanta that mirrored nationwide demonstrations over race, policing and excessive force in recent police killings. Olsen is white. Hill was black.
Officer is a seven-year veteran
Hill, 26, an Afghanistan war veteran, was killed March 9 at his apartment complex outside Atlanta.
On the day of the shooting, someone in Hill’s neighborhood called police to say there was a man “acting deranged, knocking on doors, and crawling around on the ground naked,” DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander told reporters shortly after the shooting.
Olsen, a seven-year veteran of the department, was dispatched.
“When the male saw the officer, he charged, running at the officer. The officer called him to stop while stepping backwards, drew his weapon, and fired two shots,” Alexander said.
The chief then said it appeared Hill was unarmed.
Olsen’s lawyer, Don Samuel, sent a statement to CNN saying the grand jury didn’t hear witnesses who would say the shooting was reasonable.
“Officer Olsen is a distinguished member of the police department who has never been accused of using excessive force and has never previously discharged his firearm in the line of duty,” Samuel said. “When this case is presented in a fair manner to a jury in an open courtroom, Officer Olsen will be fully exonerated.”
Girlfriend said Hill had mental illness
Supporters of Hill camped out at the courthouse for several days while awaiting the grand jury’s decision.
Hill’s girlfriend, Bridget Anderson, said he had a history of mental illness and struggled to get the support he needed from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shortly before his death, Hill had stopped taking his medication, she said.
After the announcement of the indictment, she tweeted: “Our prayers were answered. I’m on top of the world. We got justice for you, baby boy! Forever I love #Atlanta!”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over and a month after the shooting, in April 2015, GBI gave its findings to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.
A civil grand jury weighed the information and decided to present the information to a criminal grand jury, James said.
James said Olsen testified during the civil grand jury’s process, but declined to say what Olsen said.
In a statement, James said the violation of oath prosecution stems from Olsen’s failure to observe department rules, including the use of force policy. The false statement count stems from Olsen falsely telling a fellow officer the victim physically assaulted him before the shooting, the statement said.
“My job is to uphold the laws of Georgia and prosecute anyone who violates them,” James said. “This case is no exception. The facts and circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Anthony Hill warranted felony murder charges.”