A small group of military veterans rallied Monday outside the DeKalb County courthouse to demand justice for a former airman shot to death by a police officer in March.
Sometime within the next six weeks, a civil grand jury is expected to recommend whether to charge the DeKalb police officer who, on March 9, fatally shot unarmed Air Force veteran Anthony Hill.
Hill, who served in Afghanistan, was medically discharged in April 2013 after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His struggles to find the right medication, friends and family members said, likely led him to wander nude outside his Chamblee apartment, prompting a call to 911 seeking help for the aspiring musician.
“Anthony was failed on several levels,” said retired Lt. Col Amos King, a 28-year veteran with the U.S. Army. “To be (killed) like that on his home soil is a travesty.”
DeKalb police aren’t commenting as the investigation unfolds. Immediately after the shooting, police said Officer Robert Olsen felt threatened by Hill, who did not respond to his commands to stop.
Hill’s death, and the circumstances that led to it, have particular resonance with veterans. He was plagued by nightmares when he returned stateside and, according to girlfriend Bridget Anderson, was eventually prescribed Lamictal, used to delay mood episodes in adults who are bipolar or suffer from manic depression.
The medication had adverse effects, causing his tongue to swell and jaw to lock. Hill stopped taking it two weeks before he died, she said. In the meantime, she said, Hill met with resistance when trying to get relief.
He was finally able to secure an appointment at the Veterans Affairs Hospital on Clairmont Road, scheduled for the week after he was shot, Anderson said.
“This could’ve happened to a lot of us,” said Curtis York, a retired U.S. Army captain. “I’ve been to that same VA hospital, and it’s taken me an hour, hour-and-a-half just to find a parking space.”
While no one disputes Hill ignored Olsen’s order to stop, the civil grand jury’s recommendation could come down to whether Hill charged the officer, as alleged by police. Civil grand juries can not issue criminal indictments, unlike criminal grand juries, but are increasingly being used by district attorneys across the country seeking public guidance in deciding whether officers should be charged.
Eric Echols, who conducted his own investigation for the Hill family’s attorney, Chris Chestnut, said three witnesses told him Hill did not approach the officer in a threatening manner.
“A charge implies he ran toward Officer Olsen in the form of an attack,” Echols said Monday. “That was not the case. When he got close to the officer his hands were out and up. His fist was not balled. There was not any aggressive stance.”
The GBI completed its investigation of the shooting two months ago but would not disclose its findings. DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James, who also declined comment, will decide whether criminal charges are necessary once the grand jury makes its recommendation.
“It’s frustrating,” Echols said. “He was shot down.”.
King said he is organizing a larger protest of veterans demanding justice for Hill.
“Veterans are standing behind him,” King said. “It was Anthony Hill yesterday. It could be Amos King today.”
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