Air Force veteran Anthony Hill was in the midst of a bipolar episode when he was shot and killed by DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen outside his apartment in March of 2015. The Washington Post reports that over 120 people with mental illness were killed by police in 2015. Anthony Hill, age 27, was one of them.
In most cases the victims are not committing a crime at the time of their death, rather the police are reporting to a call regarding a citizen in distress. The police are frequently not adequately trained on how to safely assist the mentally ill or are unable to deescalate the situation, which can result in shooting the mentally ill individual.
Anthony Hill’s family states that he was suffering from PTSD at the time of his death, reports The Guardian. Bridget Anderson, Hill’s girlfriend at the time, disclosed that Hill suffered from bipolar disorder and social anxiety since returning from Afghanistan in 2012 following the receipt of a medical discharge from the military. He had not been able to secure steady work and was having difficulty maintaining day to day activities. Anderson described Hill’s situation as follows:
“Anthony was applying for jobs but still not getting anything. He decided he needed the VA’s help to stabilize his mood. To get help, he had to get on medicine. Prior to that, he had a lot of social anxiety.”
Hill’s family says that at the time of his death, he had been trying unsuccessfully for months to get an appointment to see a doctor at the Department of Veteran Affairs. As has been reported for many years, the VA is incredibly backlogged and mental health patients seem to face a particularly long delay until they can gain access to regular treatment and medication management. When patients suffer from severe mental health issues like Hill did, it can lead to frightening episodes where emergency responders are needed.
So what exactly happened that led to Anthony Hill’s death?
Think Progress reports that in March of 2015 a maintenance worker at Anthony Hill’s apartment complex called the police to express concern about a resident who was causing a scene outside the building. Hill was naked, banging on doors and rolling around on the ground. DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen responded to the call. Olsen claimed that Hill “charged” him and that he was high on PCP or bath salts and that a taser was ineffective in subduing him. He shot and killed Hill in front of the apartment complex.
Olsen was placed on routine administrative paid leave since the shooting in March of 2015. There were numerous witnesses to the shooting who stated that Hill was naked, unarmed and not acting in a threatening manner. Olsen chose to not use pepper spray, taser or a litany of other non lethal means of deescalation and instead shot Hill, killing him.
The District Attorney, Robert James Jr., assembled a grand jury in January 2016 and presented them with the facts of the case to seek an indictment on the following 6 charges: two counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, a single counts of violation of oath of office and a single count of making false statements.
Securing a grand jury indictment of police officers accused of murder is very difficult in this country. Georgia has a very unique set of laws protecting police officers during the grand jury process. Think Progress reports that in Georgia, police officers are allowed to sit in and watch the entire grand jury process, listen to evidence and even make a statement at the end. Regular citizens facing a grand jury investigation are not afforded the same benefit. This puts a lot of weight on the police officers ability to sway the grand jury, and consequently the effect has been chilling. Not one police officer has been indicted in the last five years. Not one.
Today, that five year stretch was broken when Olsen was indicted on all six counts, including murder.
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