Four months after he was shot and killed by a DeKalb County police officer, those closest to Anthony Hill worry he’s already been forgotten.
“You had people protesting at first, but I think a lot of them were out there just because that was the thing to do,” said Kailan Alexander, 23, Hill’s roommate at the time of his death. “It’s just not that big of an issue to people I guess.”
A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Hill — a former police intern who had no major run-ins with the law — was medically discharged in April 2013 being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His struggles to find the right medication likely led him to strip nude on March 9 outside his Chamblee apartment, where he would encounter DeKalb Officer Robert Olsen, sent to the scene after a resident called 911.
Approximately five minutes later, Hill, still naked and obviously unarmed, was shot twice after ignoring Olsen’s commands to stop.
“This country failed the love of my life,” said Hill’s longtime girlfriend, Bridget Anderson. “Not just the police, but the VA.”
Upon his discharge, Hill was plagued by nightmares, said his roommate.
“You have a child coming at you with a an assault rifle, with a bomb … these are things you can’t forget,” said Alexander, one of the only people Hill confided in about his tour in Afghanistan. “Anthony loved children, and children loved Anthony.”
Seeing them die took a heavy toll. Hill was prescribed Lamictal, used to delay mood episodes in adults who are bipolar or suffer from manic depression.
The medication had adverse effects, his friends said. His tongue would swell and his jaw often locked, Anderson said.
“He was a musician so that wasn’t going to work,” she said.
He sought medical assistance but often encountered significant roadblocks. One time, he arrived for an appointment at the Veterans Administration hospital in DeKalb only to find it had been scheduled for a facility in Texas, Anderson said.
“He’d try to call and be on hold for five hours,” she said.
About two weeks before his death, Hill stopped taking the Lamictal. Whether he had begun retaking the drug is unclear, but something caused him to act so out of character, Anderson said.
“Anthony was very modest,” she said. “He didn’t even like to walk around with his shirt off.”
Though such questions are likely to remain unanswered, the investigation into Hill’s shooting — conducted by the GBI — has been completed.
DeKalb District Attorney Robert James will now take Hill’s case before a civil grand jury that will recommend whether his office should seek an indictment.
James declined comment, as did the GBI. At a press conference following the shooting, DeKalb Police Chief Cedric Alexander said Hill “charged” Olsen, a seven-year veteran of the force.
“The officer called to him to stop, while stepping backward,” Alexander said. “He then drew his weapon and fired two shots.”
Alexander said the officer was equipped with a taser and pepper spray. Why he chose to bypass those non-lethal options remains unclear.
Attorney Christopher Chestnut, who represents Hill’s family, conducted his own investigation.
Chestnut’s investigator, Eric Echols, said he interviewed three witnesses who relayed virtually identical accounts. The 911 caller told him she called seeking paramedics, but a DeKalb police spokesman said the call was dispatched as a suspicious person.
When Olsen arrives at the Chamblee Heights apartments, Hill was kneeling on the ground, as if in prayer, about 183 feet away, Echols said. Olsen remained in his vehicle for roughly three to five minutes, possibly awaiting back-up.
Hill made the first move, according to three witnesses interviewed by Echols, trotting toward Olsen’s patrol car. Those same witnesses observed the officer exit the vehicle and retreat to its rear, gun drawn. Hill’s pace slowed as he neared the officer, but there’s no debate he ignored the officer’s commands to stop.
He was within three-to-five feet of Olsen when the officer fired his gun, Echols said.
Moments later a second patrol car arrives. By then Hill is clearly dead.
Pat Strode, the program administrator for the Georgia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Hill’s behavior was clearly hallucinatory and should not have been treated as a threat. It’s likely he saw the officer as someone who could help him, Strode said.
Hill, who once interned with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office in his native Moncks Corner, South Carolina, was a staunch defender of law enforcement, said his longtime girlfriend, Bridget Anderson.
“We got in a lot of heated arguments about this,” Anderson said. “But he always believed the best about people. He was always spreading positivity.”
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Credit: Jason Getz/AJC