Former DeKalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen listens to testimony during his trial at the DeKalb County Superior Court in Decatur GA Monday 21, 2018. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer
Photo: Steve Schaefer

Officer who shot unarmed veteran takes the stand  

UPDATE: Robert Olsen, the former DeKalb County police officer accused of murdering unarmed Afghanistan War veteran Anthony Hill, took the stand Monday afternoon to argue charges against him be dropped. 

Olsen, 56, claims he acted in self-defense when he shot Hill. In Georgia, such defendants are given the opportunity to plead their case before a judge. If sufficiently convinced, the judge can dismiss the charges before the case ever goes to a trial. 

Olsen has yet to address the fatal shooting of Hill. He said he joined law enforcement in his mid-30s because, “This is always what I wanted to be.” 

He said he was trained to deal with mentally ill suspects like Hill, who suffered from bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders.  

Return for more updates. 

In testimony earlier Monday, details were revealed about the moments before the veteran was shot.

As DeKalb officer Robert Olsen was en route to the Chamblee Heights apartment complex, Afghanistan War veteran Anthony Hill was desperately seeking help.

“He was just there saying strange things, like ‘The devil is coming,’” maintenance worker Pedro Castillo testified Monday at an immunity hearing for Olsen.

The former DeKalb County officer insists he acted in self-defense on March 9, 2015, when he fatally shot Hill, unarmed and unclothed, twice in the midsection. 

“Suddenly (Hill) said, ‘Help me, help me,’” Castillo said.

Judge JP Boulee could dismiss murder charges against Olsen if he is convinced that Olsen feared for his safety and responded appropriately during his deadly encounter with Hill. 

NEED TO CATCH UP?:  DeKalb Cop who killed naked veteran seeks to have charges dropped

IN-DEPTH: In DeKalb police shooting, a rare indictment, a long road to trial

Castillo testified that he and another maintenance worker walked Hill, then wearing shorts and a T-shirt, back to his apartment without incident. They had warned him they would have to call the police if he didn’t comply. 

“Good. The police are my friends,” Hill responded, according to Castillo. 

Former DeKalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen listens to testimony during his trial at the DeKalb County Superior Court  on Monday.  At left is his attorney Don Samuel. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer

Apartment manager Grisselle Torres, who called 911, said she wasn’t worried about the safety of the other residents. “I was concerned about Anthony Hill,” she said.

RELATED: Who was Anthony Hill?

Hill had re-emerged from his apartment, naked and hunched over on the ground, by the time Olsen arrived at Chamblee Heights. He could be heard saying, “I love you, mommy,” Castillo testified. 

Olsen, according to defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer, had prepared for a much different scenario based on the information given to him by a 911 operator.  

Anthony Hill and his parents - Anthony Hill Sr. and Carolyn Baylor-Giummo.

“His training tells him that people who become naked likely are experiencing some type of excited delirium, possibly caused by PCP or some mind-altering substance,” Clark Palmer said. Olsen also knew that such suspects often exhibit superhuman strength and are impervious to pain.

“It’s a situation where he needs to be on high alert,” Clark Palmer said. “His antennae are up, so to speak.”

But Hill, countered the state, was no threat. “He had a mental illness and he was off his meds,” prosecutor Lance Cross said. Hill had been diagnosed with bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders while in the U.S. Air Force. 

“He wasn’t hurting anybody,” Cross continued. “He had no weapon. Not a stick. Not a rock.”

Olsen exited his vehicle with his gun drawn, “the thing that escalated the situation to its highest level,” Cross said. 

RELATED: Past complaints emerge against DeKalb officer who shot unarmed vet

Castillo testified that Hill’s hands were stretched out, waist-high. Olsen repeatedly told him to stop. 

“He didn’t stop running,” Castillo said. “His speed just became less.” 

Ge live updates on Twitter @reporterJCB.  

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