DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — An Atlanta-area prosecutor said Thursday he plans to seek an indictment of a police officer who fatally shot an unarmed naked man last year.
DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said he would ask a grand jury to indict Officer Robert Olsen of the DeKalb County Police Department, who shot Anthony Hill on March 9 while responding to a call of a man behaving erratically outside a suburban Atlanta apartment complex.
The family of the 27-year-old Hill says he was a U.S. Air Force veteran who struggled with mental health problems.
James said he plans to present the case to a grand jury on Jan. 21. He plans to ask grand jurors to indict Olsen on two counts each of felony murder and violating oath of office and one count each of aggravated assault and making a false statement.
DeKalb County police spokesman Maj. Stephen Fore said he couldn't comment on an ongoing investigation. A phone number for Olsen could not immediately be found, and it wasn't immediately clear whether he had a lawyer who could comment on the charges.
Hill's girlfriend, Bridget Anderson, and his family have long demanded that Olsen face criminal charges. Anderson said she was fearful that might not happen because prosecutors and grand juries around the country have declined to bring charges in other cases in which officers have shot civilians.
"It's just surreal right now," Anderson said. "I can't really put into words how excited I am."
James' decision to bring it to a grand jury is a step closer to justice, she said, adding that she hopes the grand jurors will agree that charges are appropriate.
Olsen is white and Hill was black. Tensions between police and minorities have risen across the country in the aftermath of a series of officer-involved shootings mostly involving white law enforcement officers and unarmed African-American males. Incidents in Missouri, South Carolina and elsewhere have set off a national debate and repeated protests about police conduct.
James' office presents every case involving shootings by officers to a grand jury for civil review, and the grand jurors recommend whether a case should be considered for criminal prosecution. Ultimately, the district attorney decides whether to seek indictment.
Grand jurors in October heard evidence in the case but said inconsistencies and contradictions prevented them from being able to recommend whether or not the district attorney should pursue indictment. The grand jurors recommended further investigation.
James said at the time that he had "serious concerns" about the case.
When the case was presented for a civil review, the district attorney's office only presented evidence but did not try to sway the grand jurors one way or the other. When prosecutors present an indictment to a different grand jury later this month, they will actively advocate for criminal charges, James said.
Asked how optimistic he was about getting an indictment, James would say only, "We don't seek indictments when we don't believe the facts and circumstances are present and the information is available for us to present to a grand jury to have a positive outcome."
Hill's family in November filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the DeKalb County Police Department, Olsen, the county and its board of commissioners.
Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com