AFRICANGLOBE – A police officer who shot dead an unarmed Black veteran outside Atlanta might not have needed to use lethal force, multiple witnesses have told an investigator working for the victim’s family.
Anthony Hill, a 27-year old US air force veteran who had served in Afghanistan and had bipolar disorder, was killed by DeKalb County police department officer Mark Olsen on 9 March.
Olsen was responding to a 911 call about a man who was allegedly naked, had banged on his neighbors’ doors, and had crawled around the Heights of Chamblee apartment complex in the Atlanta suburb of Chamblee.
Christopher Chestnut, an attorney hired to represent Hill’s family, told reporters on 25 March that eyewitnesses had called into question Olsen’s use of lethal force. According to what multiple witnesses told to a private investigator, Olsen was approximately 180ft away from Hill when the two first made contact.
Olsen, who did not ask about Hill’s mental health, proceeded to fire at the veteran, while Hill walked toward him at a “brisk” pace, according to witnesses. Hill was unarmed at the time of his death, authorities later found.
“He’s disrobed, so it’s blatantly apparent that he is not carrying nor concealing a weapon,” Chestnut told reporters. “He’s not saying anything to the officer, so he’s not threatening the officer. There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for that officer to even draw his firearm, let alone use it.”
Two bullets struck Hill, who had not taken his bipolar medication for roughly 10 days prior to the encounter, in his chest.
Olsen had worked for the DeKalb County police department for seven years with no major red flags on his record. But questions have now been raised about why Olsen, armed with a Taser and pepper spray during the incident, reached for his firearm first.
He was placed on administrative leave for the remainder of the investigation.
Hill’s grandmother, Theola Baylor, and mother, Carolyn Baylor-Giummo, spoke with reporters for the first time on Wednesday following the funeral in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, last week.
Hill was a passionate musician with plans to attend barber school, they said. They were planning a visit to spend time with Hill for his 28th birthday.
“I don’t hate the cop. I pray for him, I pray for him because I feel like one day he’s going to have to give an account to the maker above,” Baylor told 11 Alive TV.
Hill’s death – one of the latest in a national spate of African Americans being killed by police – has angered local community members and social media users. His killing follows the death of Kevin Davis, a Georgia resident who last December was shot three times by a DeKalb County officer and died in custody at Grady Memorial hospital, as well as the well-publicized murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York.
It has sparked a wave of protests during the past few weeks. Local activists have organized demonstrations that have blocked traffic and disrupted business at local restaurants. On 14 March, authorities arrested seven protesters for failing to move out of a street during a rally in Hill’s name.
The DeKalb County police chief, Cedric Alexander, in an attempt to be transparent following recent police-involved shootings, has asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to conduct an independent probe into Hill’s death.
Once GBI finish the investigation, officials are expected to turn over their findings to DeKalb County district attorney Robert James’s office.
A DeKalb County police spokeswoman, Mekka Parish, declined to comment.
“The DeKalb County police department is no longer in a position to provide any additional details or make any additional statements on this investigation,” Parish told reporters.
Chestnut did not return calls requesting an interview for this story.
By: Max Blau