Prosecutors in DeKalb County, Ga., will seek a criminal indictment of the police officer who in March 2015 fatally shot Anthony Hill, an Afghanistan war veteran who was naked and unarmed when he was killed.
DeKalb District Attorney Robert James said Thursday that he will recommend a criminal grand jury indict Officer Robert Olsen on two counts of felony murder, two counts of violation of an officer’s oath, aggravated assault and making a false statement.
“Our decision is that we’re going forward on an indictment,” James said. “Ultimately it is going to be up to a grand jury as to whether or not Officer Robert Olsen is charged with felony murder.”
A criminal grand jury will begin hearing evidence later this month, James said.
[READ MORE: The Washington Post’s police shooting project]
Hill, 27, was allegedly behaving erratically when Officer Robert Olsen shot and killed him — one of several deadly shootings of unarmed black men nationally that gained attention last year and sparked widespread protests.
Police were responding to a call about a suspicious person. Bystander videos and photos show Hill was naked, climbing on the sides of his apartment building prior to the shooting. Police have said that Hill then charged at Olsen, who shot and killed him.
“The caller reported a male acting deranged, knocking on doors, crawling around on the ground naked,” DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander said at the time of the shooting. “When the male saw the officer he charged, running at the officer. The officer told him to stop while stepping back at which point he drew his weapon and fired two shots.”
Hill’s family, which has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, says he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and was bipolar. They say Hill he was having an emotional breakdown when he was killed and that they do not believe Hill charged at Olsen, instead that he may have been approaching the officer for help. They also want to know why the officer did not use a stun gun.
“We have three eyewitnesses to the shooting who say he never got within 3 to 5 feet of the officer,” said Christopher Chestnut, an attorney for Hill’s family said in a previous interview with The Post. “He’s a veteran. He respects and honors and entrusts the uniform.”
If Olsen is charged in Hill’s death, his would be the ninth on-duty fatal police shooting in 2015 that resulted in criminal charges for the officer involved — about three times the annual average of the number of officers who had been indicted during the prior decade, according to a Washington Post analysis.
To date, nine officers have been charged in connection with eight of the 986 fatal police shootings that occurred in 2015, resulting in criminal charges; four of those eight shootings were of unarmed black men.
Fatal police shootings in 2015 also often involved people in the midst of a mental health crisis — with a quarter of all fatal police shootings involving some type of mental health component.
“This is an epidemic, law enforcement agencies, responding to this in the wrong way,” Carolyn Baylor-Giummo, Hill’s mother, told The Post. “Rather than training this officer to help people with mental illness, Officer Olsen was trained to call the union lawyer from the scene. That’s the wrong kind of training.”