While the case has received national attention, the fatal shooting of a naked, unarmed veteran by a DeKalb County police officer generated only sporadic protests in metro Atlanta.
“You had people protesting at first, but I think a lot of them were out there just because that was the thing to do,” the dead man’s roommate, Kailan Alexander, 23, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last July, four months after Anthony Hill was gunned down by Officer Robert Olsen. “It’s just not that big of an issue to people I guess.”
But now, with District Attorney Robert James seeking a six-count indictment, including felony murder, against Olsen, protesters say they will remain camp outside the DeKalb courthouse starting Monday night until the grand jury convenes Thursday.
“Though an officer has not been indicted for a fatal shooting in Georgia since 2010, we believe that with enough public pressure and an objective look at the facts, the grand jury in this case will make the right decision,” the social justice group Rise Up Georgia said in a statement.
A neighbor at the Chamblee Heights complex called 911 after spotting Hill, 27, wandering naked outside his apartment. Friends told The AJC he was likely driven by an adverse reaction to medication he was prescribed for bipolar disorder, diagnosed while he was in the Air Force.
Last month, a civil grand jury split on whether charges should be brought against the officer but recommended further investigation. Olsen told that jury he feared for his safety, believing Hill was high on PCP or bath salts. Hill failed to heed two commands to stop, but his family’s attorney, Chris Chestnut, said witnesses dispute the officer’s claim that Hill charged him.
James seeks to charge Olsen with two counts of felony murder, an aggravated assault charge, two counts of violation of oath of office and one count for making a false statement.
Though prosecutors usually have little trouble getting a grand jury to indict, cases involving police-involved shootings have proven more challenging, as officers are granted a special privilege allowing them to present their side without cross-examination.
In five years, out of 184 police shootings in Georgia, none have been prosecuted, according to an investigation by The AJC and Channel 2 Action News.
Rise Up Georgia said they plan to use their protest to draw attention to the need for better training on how law enforcement interacts with the mentally ill.
“Had Officer Olsen been a trained mental health professional, perhaps he would have recognized Hill’s behavior as that associated with bipolar disorder and been equipped with appropriate de-escalation skills,” the group said in a statement.
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