Georgia prosecutor to seek charges against officer in shooting death

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 07, 2016 3:18 PM

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A prosecutor on Thursday said he would seek a murder charge against a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed, naked black man at an apartment complex near Atlanta last year.

DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said he will seek the indictment of Officer Robert Olsen on felony murder and other charges from a criminal grand jury expected to hear the case on Jan. 21.

"It is the position of this office that a crime was committed," James told a news conference.

The death of Anthony Hill, 27, was one of a series of killings of black men by law enforcement officers around the United States that have prompted debate and protests about police use of force.

Olsen, who is on paid administrative leave from the DeKalb County Police Department, shot Hill twice in the chest on March 9, 2015 in a suburban area near Atlanta. Neighbors had complained that Hill was crawling around naked, knocking on doors and "acting deranged," police said.

Olsen testified before a civil grand jury in October that he felt threatened by Hill, according to a lawyer for Hill's family.

The family has argued that the officer could have used a stun gun or other methods to subdue Hill, a U.S. Air Force veteran who was experiencing a "non-violent mental episode" from a disorder developed while serving in Afghanistan, according to a wrongful death lawsuit they filed in November.

The family has said he was medically discharged from the military in 2013 and was an aspiring musician.

The civil grand jury recommended further investigation into Hill's death but could not agree on whether District Attorney James should take the case to a criminal grand jury for possible indictment.

James said the United States has been on edge over officer-involved shootings, but he said his decision was based solely on the facts of the case.

He said he will seek indictments on charges of felony murder, aggravated assault, violation of oath of office and giving false testimony.

Olsen and his attorney were notified of the action late on Wednesday, James said. Efforts to reach them through the police department were not immediately successful.

Hill's girlfriend, Bridget Anderson, said she and his family had been praying for charges to be pursued against the officer.

"I didn't think it would get this far," she said. "We're one step closer to justice now."

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)