ATLANTA (AP) — Witness statements suggest that a metro Atlanta police officer was initially 180 feet away from a naked, mentally ill man and could have retreated or used nonlethal force rather than shooting him, an attorney for the late man's family said Wednesday.
DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen shot 26-year-old Anthony Hill on March 9 while responding to a call reporting a suspicious person knocking on doors and crawling naked on the ground.
Hill's family said the Air Force veteran suffered from bipolar disorder and had stopped taking his medication because of side effects.
Witnesses at the apartment complex told a private investigator that when Olsen first encountered Hill, they were about 180 feet away from each other, attorney Christopher Chestnut said. Those witnesses said Hill started a "brisk" walk toward the officer, who may have ordered Hill to stop. Chestnut declined to release the identities of the witnesses or their entire statements.
Chestnut said those who saw the incident reported that Hill slowed down but kept moving toward the police officer. Chestnut said the officer failed to ask Hill questions that might have shed light on his mental state.
Olsen could not be reached for comment. Personnel records obtained by The Associated Press show that Olsen was well-regarded by his commanders and faced no major disciplinary issues.
"He's disrobed, so it's blatantly apparent that he is not carrying nor concealing a weapon," Chestnut said. "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."
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting. DeKalb County police spokeswoman Mekka Parish declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Hill's mother, Carolyn Giummo, said Hill was an aspiring musician and never violent. She said she first learned her son was suffering from bipolar disorder after he returned from a military deployment in Afghanistan. He moved to Atlanta in 2013, but he did not receive his first medication from the Atlanta VA Medical Center until January. VA spokesman Greg Kendall said the hospital would not comment on Hill's care.
"He survived the war, the bullets, everything, just to come back home and be gunned down," she said.