Former Georgia Officer Cleared of Murder in Shooting Death of Unarmed Black Veteran
|thenorthstar||Oct 15, 2019|
A former Georgia police officer who shot and killed an unarmed Black man in 2015 was found not guilty of felony murder on October 14. Robert “Chip” Olsen was convicted of aggravated assault and other lesser charges relating to the shooting death of Air Force veteran Anthony Hill.
The former police officer was acquitted of two felony murder counts but was found guilty on two counts of violation of oath of office, one count of aggravated assault, and one count of making false statements.
The guilty verdicts on the lesser counts caused Olsen’s wife Kathy to burst into tears and cry out, “No! No! No!” She was led out of the courtroom but could still be heard sobbing, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Kathy Olsen was not the only one upset. Hill’s family was disappointed in the verdict, but expected it, according to the newspaper. After the jury deliberated for about 27 hours over six days, two jurors cried as the split verdict was announced.
One juror told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the long discussions often turned contentious.
“There was only so much I could do. I was disturbed,” Juror 31, the only African American man on the jury panel said. “At some point in time, just hearing him say self-defense and hearing people in my [jury] saying self-defense was… one of the hardest things that any man of color could endure.”
The juror told reporters he believed 57-year-old Olsen should have been convicted of murder but compromised with fellow jurors. “A naked man doesn’t post a threat to a trained cop,” the Lithonia man said. “When we call a cop, we expect a cop to de-escalate a situation, not turn to the most deadliest arsenal on his belt. And that’s where he went wrong.”
The case had languished in the courts for years with judges recusing themselves and other major delays, The New York Times reported.
Olsen, who was part of the DeKalb County Police Department, shot Hill twice in a parking lot after the 26-year-old Afghanistan war veteran was found wandering naked outside of an Atlanta-area apartment complex on March 9, 2015.
A resident called police to report Hill “acting deranged, knocking on doors, and crawling around on the ground naked,” former DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander said at the time. Alexander said that when Hill saw Olsen “he charged, running at the officer.
The officer commanded him to stop while stepping backwards, drew his weapon, and fired two shots,” CNN reported.
Hill had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. His girlfriend, Bridget Anderson, said Hill struggled to get support from the Department of Veterans Affairs for his mental illnesses and had stopped taking his medication shortly before the fatal shooting.
Olsen, who is white, was indicted by a grand jury nearly a year after the fatal shooting, CBS News reported.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Olsen did not follow protocol regarding use of force and could have instead used a baton on Hill. Olsen’s defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer claimed their client was “a good cop who had to make a tough decision,” and noted that he did not have a history of violence.
Judge Latisha Dear Jackson allowed Olsen to remain free on an $80,000 bond until he is sentenced on November 1. Olsen will be required to wear an ankle monitor and is subject to a curfew, CNN reported. He faces up to 35 years in prison.
Hill’s mother, Carolyn Giummo, asked the judge to deny Olsen’s bond. “It’s been four years that we’ve been waiting for this,” she said. “My son is no longer here.… I just feel like it’s time now.”
The jury’s verdict came as the nation’s attention turned to yet another fatal shooting of a Black person by a police officer.
In the early hours of October 12, Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean shot and killed 28-year-old Atatiana Koquice Jefferson in her own bedroom during a welfare check. Dean, 34, resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department on October 14 before the department could fire him.
Dean, who is white, was arrested later on October 14 after being charged with murder. He was released hours later on $200,000 bond, USA Today reported.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.