After four years, former DeKalb County police officer, Robert Olsen was found guilty, but not for the felony murder of Anthony Hill. Olsen shot and killed Hill, an African/American Afghanistan veteran, who was unarmed, necked, and having a mental health crisis in 2015.
Olsen was found guilty of aggravated assault, making a false statement, and two counts of violation of oath, but the jury acquitted him on two counts of felony murder charges. The aggravated assault charge carries a sentence of 20 years, the other three charges are five years each.
The jury was composed of four Black jurors and eight white or other nationalities. Juror #31 said that six people voted to convict Olsen of murder and it was split along racial lines, as reported in the Atlanta Black Star.
This verdict exposes white privilege that often insulates white people from the reality of racism, white supremacy, and police violence that so many Black people experience daily.
Hill is an example of what happens on a daily basis to Black people in America. Human rights activists can name hundreds of Black people who were unarmed and killed by the police from 12- year-old, Tamir Rice, playing in a park, to 28-year-old, Atatiana Jefferson, playing a video game with her 8-year-old nephew in her own home.
Officer Olsen initially lied and said Hill hit him, but when he learned there was a video he changed his story. Then he said he was afraid of Hill because he was muscular and big like a football player and believed Hill was on drugs like PCP which would give Hill superhuman strength and an inability to feel pain.
The reality was very different.
Hill was 5’9” and 160 pounds, necked with his empty hands visible. He was running toward Olsen for help and his last words were, “The police are my friends they will help me.”
Olsen is 6’2” and 210 pounds and had a gun, pepper spray, taser, baton and standing next to his car which he could have gotten in if he was afraid and call for back-up.
But thats not what Olsen did. Instead, he chose to shoot to kill when Hill was about four feet away. The first shot was to his neck and the second to his chest, both were fatal.
Olsen can receive up to 35 years in prison for the four counts he was found guilty on if DeKalb Superior Court Judge LaTisha Dear Jackson gives him the maximum sentence on each of the counts and runs them consecutively.
Hill’s supports held a press conference outside the DeKalb County courthouse after the verdict, and many were angry that Olsen did not get charged with felony murder.
“We are demanding 35 years nothing less, and if 35 years don’t happen we are going to have a real problem this is a message from the Atlanta National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP),” Gerald Griggs, Second Vice President of the NAACP/Atlanta Chapter, promised.
Griggs is not alone in this feeling. Everyone who has followed this case for the past four years is demanding Olsen serve 35 years in prison for the murder of Anthony Hill.
Judge Jackson allowed Olsen to stay out of jail on an $80,000 bond with an ankle monitor until November 1. This decision by Judge Jackson rubbed a community that was angry and hurting the wrong way.
“I have yet to see a defendant go home after being convicted of shooting somebody. He is a convicted felon and in DeKalb County, convicted felons are generally sentenced the same day. They are not granted appeal bonds and allowed to go home,” Griggs said.
“I’m mad and hurt because I have been fighting for four years for Anthony Hill. He was killed butt naked and unarmed and he did not receive justice today. If the Judge don’t do the right thing on November 1, vote her out. Olsen should be locked up in jail today but she gave him an $80,000 bond because she doesn’t think he is a threat to society. When you kill an unarmed, naked man you are a threat to society,” Dre Normando Love, with Alliance for Black Lives, said.
“When you are having a mental episode or a crisis, don’t call the police if you are Black. We found out that one-third to one-half of people killed by police are living with some type of mental health issue or disability,” Dawn O’Neal, with US Protecting US, and BLM, said.
Kendall Green-El with US Protecting US made three demands of DeKalb County. (1) A 911 triage system to identify people in a mental health crisis and disability emergencies who need help (2) training by peer-led people in the community and people with disabilities (3) a mobile crisis unit to send out emergency responders NOT law enforcement.
Police killed 1,147 people in 2017 in the United States. Black people were 25% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population according to mappingpoliceviolence.org
Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. Twenty-one percent of Black victims were unarmed compared to 14% of white victims.
In 2015, ninety-nine percent of cases have not resulted in any police officers involved being convicted of a crime. There is very little accountability for police officers who kill.
It is “state violence any time a white officer gets off for killing Black children in this country that seems to be the norm now,” O’Neal observed.
“State violence isn’t just police brutality. When they cut funding from our schools that is state violence. When they take away access to health care that is state violence. When they close our polling stations that is state violence. State violence has taken many forms and it has taken many lives and many dreams,” Murtaza Khwaja, Staff Attorney, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Georgia Chapter, said.
Khwaja said he had a very similar case to the Hill case in Johns Creek where five police officers shot Shukri Said seven times and killed her in her home. She was also having a mental health crisis and needed help – not death by police.
Jewish Voice for Peace sees parallels between the U.S. and Israel when it comes to racism, human rights violations, police brutality, and unequal justice. Israel uses state violence to maintain control over the indigenous Palestinian population. Israel violates the human rights of Palestinians who are living under illegal military occupation.
So why does the U.S. sends our police officers to be trained in Israel and other countries that violate human rights?
“We believe that training our police with a government that violates the human rights of people of color, African asylum seekers, and Muslims can only lead to increases in human rights violations here against people of color, immigrants, and Muslims,” Connie Sosnoff, Co-Coordinator, Jewish Voice for Peace/Atlanta Chapter, said.
Also training police in war zones and giving them military equipment has militarized some police to treat citizens like combatants, especially people of color.
The Progressive Magazine published a report about how training police in foreign countries were contributing to the fatal police shooting of people of color.
To watch Judy Conder’s video of Gerald Griggs responding to the Olsen verdict go to Georgia Grassroots Video Youtube channel (www.youtube.com/artemistthedrummer) or click on the link belowhttps://youtu.be/DPJMPENxg3I
written by Gloria Tatum
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