ATLANTA (AP) — Bridget Anderson had been planning to go to her boyfriend's place Monday evening to cook together and celebrate their three-year anniversary. Instead, she got a call that he had been shot dead by police.
A police officer responding to reports of a suspicious person knocking on doors and crawling on the ground naked at an apartment complex just outside Atlanta fatally shot 27-year-old Anthony Hill. Officer Robert Olsen shot Hill twice when the man began running toward him and didn't stop when ordered, DeKalb County Chief of Police Cedric Alexander told reporters Monday.
Hill had served more than four years in the U.S. Air Force when he was medically discharged a few years ago, his girlfriend, Bridget Anderson, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Wednesday. He was being treated by a VA doctor for bipolar disorder but stopped taking the medication a week or two ago because he didn't like the side effects, including stiffening in his jaw, she said.
But Anderson, 22, said she didn't notice any changes in her boyfriend after he stopped taking his medication and she'd never known him to behave strangely.
"This is totally out of the blue," she said, referring to the strange behavior police and others described before Hill was shot.
Hill is black and the officer who shot him is white. No weapon was found, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting. The police chief acknowledged the national debate surrounding police shootings and said he wanted to make sure the investigation was transparent, open and fair.
A group of about 125 demonstrators gathered Wednesday evening in downtown Decatur to protest Hill's shooting. Jim Chambers, an organizer with the activist group Rise Up Georgia, said he hoped the protest starts a discussion about police conduct and training in the community. The group sang, chanted and occasionally stopped at intersections to sit down and listen to a speaker, while police cars blocked traffic.
Kenneth White, 39, who attended the protest with his wife, Tasha, 40, and two of their young children, said the family wanted to be there to demand that law enforcement be held accountable.
"Police officers have an extremely hard job," White said. "But they signed the dotted line for that job. If they make mistakes, just like I make mistakes, I have to pay the price for it. I think the same should be held to those who are supposed to enforce those laws."
Hill's mother has hired lawyer Christopher Chestnut and has asked for privacy. Chestnut said Wednesday that the police officer could have retreated, used his nonlethal weapons or fought with his hands. Chestnut said his law firm will conduct its own investigation.
"This victim had no weapon. He's unclothed," Chestnut said. "So the level of threat is de minimus. ... There was no imminent threat to the officer's life or the life of anyone else."
Anderson said she was looking forward to celebrating her three-year anniversary with Hill on Monday evening when she got a call telling her he'd been killed.
"My heart just tore out of my chest," she said. "I started screaming his name and saying it couldn't be true that he was gone."
The pair had mutual friends and had been together since he reached out to her with a cute response on Twitter when she tweeted that she had a thing for nice eyebrows.
Hill was a happy, caring person, who was passionate about music, made friends everywhere he went and enjoyed playing with the children in his neighborhood, she said. He liked to cook for his girlfriend and made a spaghetti dinner last week.
"It tasted like something from Olive Garden," she said. "It was so good, and he was so proud of it."
He sang everywhere he went and wanted to be famous for his songwriting and singing, Anderson said. To that end, he had set a goal of getting a recording contract by June 15 of next year, his birthday.
Hill's death at the hands of a police officer is especially tragic, Anderson said, because he had great respect for police officers. When no indictment was issued for police officers in the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black Staten Island man who got into a videotaped confrontation with white police officers, Anderson said she expressed anger and frustration with police. But Hill told her to remember that most police are good people, she said.
Associated Press writers Kathleen Foody and Ray Henry contributed to this report.