Two years after his medical discharge from the Air Force, wartime memories and nightmares still plagued Anthony Hill.
Children with assault rifles, children with bombs and the ugly things he remembered from his tour of duty in Afghanistan, things he struggled to sort out and make peace with. His battle was further complicated by a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder, which prompted his discharge. To help stabilize his moods, Hill was relying on medication, but was plagued by side effects.
Yet, shouldered next to his despair was a sense of hope and the promise of plans. There was a girlfriend, Bridget Anderson, who described him as “the love of my life.” There were plans to attend school and become a licensed barber. There was his passion for music. And there was an impending visit from his mother Carolyn Baylor-Giummo, who was planning to see her eldest child and only son in Chamblee to celebrate his 28th birthday.
Even with all the medication and attempts to get treated at the local Veterans Administration Hospital, Hill, 27, usually presented optimistic face to the world, his mother said.
Hill’s fight to control his mind and chart a new path for his life ended last March when he was shot and killed by DeKalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen. Olsen was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday on several charges including felony murder, aggravated assault, violating oath of office and making false statements.
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Witnesses said Hill had been wandering his Chamblee apartment complex naked, knocking on doors, but not threatening anyone. When Olsen encountered Hall in the parking lot, the officer felt threatened, he told a civil grand jury last fall. Olsen said Hill, who had no weapon, came toward him. Then Olsen allegedly shot him twice in the chest.
Hill was raised in the village of Moncks Corner, SC., about 35 miles north of Charleston. By the time he graduated from high school, he landed an internship with the local sheriff’s office. That experience gave him one-on-one time with officers and a chance to see the dangers of the job. Perhaps it was this experience, coupled with Hill’s own military experience that shaped his nuanced view of the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement.
Just three days before his own death, as national media outlets were covering the police shooting of an unarmed black man in Madison, Wisc., Hill posted this on Facebook: “The key thing to remember is, #blacklivesmatter, ABSOLUTELY, but not more so than any other life.”
Anderson said she and Hill got into heated debates over the role of law enforcement. Hill saw complex interactions with shared responsibility. He took to Twitter telling his followers, “[W]e gotta start basing our outrage on #FACTS not SPECULATION made valid by #EMOTION.” His next tweet: “If 99 out of 100 cops (are) killing black men like its hunting season that leaves 1 just doing his job.”
Hill was just as upfront about his illness.
“I am thankful to be something other than normal,” he wrote in one tweet. “I don’t fight my circumstance, I embrace it. I love myself. Always #IAmBipolar.”
While he accepted his condition, he also sought to treat it. Anderson said he was taking Lamictal, an anticonvulsant often used to control mood changes in bipolar patients. But there were complications. His mother said he had trouble sleeping. Anderson said the medicine caused his jaw to lock and his tongue to swell. Those side effects presented a particular challenge for the budding R&B musician. At some point before his death, he stopped taking the medicine, Anderson said, but it’s not clear if or when he resumed.
A veteran, Hill looked to the Veterans Administration for assistance, but found high hurdles at the embattled agency. One time he waited on the phone for five hours seeking help, Anderson said. Another time, Hill went to the veteran’s medical center in DeKalb County only to find the appointment had been scheduled for a facility in Texas, she said.
In early March, Hill began tweeting about his condition in earnest. What seemed to prompt it was an episode of the hit television show “Empire.” One of the main character’s on the show, Andre Lyon, is portrayed as having bipolar disorder, which he struggles to treat.
Hill took to Facebook: “Don’t let this whole Andre from #Empire thing turn y’all away from individuals who are other than ‘normal.’ The media continues to paint the same horrific picture of mentally affected people but I have to tell you, there are so many shades in between the extremes.”
“To everyone in the shadows, I’m here to tell you, no man can ever define you, not even one with ‘Dr’ in front of his name. Love YOUR life!”
Five days later, Hill was dead. Within hours, his name was added to the litany of others called by the Black Lives Matter movement.