DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. – For the second time in a week, a jury will decide the fate of a former police officer charged with murder for killing an unarmed black man.
Jurors on Friday began deliberating the case against former Dekalb County, Georgia, police officer Robert “Chip” Olsen. They met for five hours and will resume deliberations Monday morning.
Olsen is accused of killing Anthony Hill, a 26-year-old US Air Force veteran of the Afghanistan war. Hill was naked and unarmed at the time when Olsen shot him in the chest and neck in March 2015.
Olsen, who is white, faces several charges, including two counts of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault.
Hill’s shooting led to protests in Atlanta that mirrored nationwide demonstrations over race, policing and excessive force in recent police killings.
On the day he was shot, someone in Hill’s neighborhood called police to report a man “acting deranged, knocking on doors, and crawling around on the ground naked,” then-DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander said after the shooting.
Olsen, a seven-year veteran of the department, was dispatched to the scene.
“When the male saw the officer, he charged, running at the officer. The officer called him to stop while stepping backwards, drew his weapon, and fired two shots,” Alexander said.
Hill’s girlfriend, Bridget Anderson, said he had a history of mental illness and struggled to get the support he needed from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Hill had stopped taking his medication shortly before his death, she said.
The prosecution and defense rested this week. Olsen did not take the stand during the trial.
During closing arguments on Thursday, the prosecution called for checks and balances within police departments and claimed that Olsen did not follow protocol when using force.
Lance Cross, an assistant district attorney, grabbed a baton and extended it in front of the jury.
“This is a weapon. He could’ve used this. We wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer put her hands-on Olsen’s shoulder and said he was “a good cop who had to make a tough decision”.
“Chip Olsen is not a murderer and is not guilty of any count in this indictment,” she said.
Olsen has no history of using violence or being accused of using excessive force during his time with the department, the prosecution said.
Witnesses testified Olsen asked Hill several times to stop as he ran or charged towards the former officer, slowing down right before the young veteran was shot twice.
The prosecution argued witnesses said Hill had his arms up while naked with nowhere to hide a weapon.
In opening statements last week, prosecutors said Olsen was uncomfortable when he saw Hill running naked outside the apartment complex, but it didn’t give him a reason to shoot.
But defense attorney Don Samuel argued his client didn’t have a clear picture of Hill’s actions or what his background was.
He only knew that people had called 911 scared of a man acting up, Samuel said.
“How does a human being react when you have 6 or 7 seconds, and someone is running at you?” Samuel said.
Earlier this week, a jury convicted former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger of murder after she killed 26-year-old Botham Jean, an unarmed black man, in his own apartment in September 2018. Guyger, who is white, faced up to life in prison but a jury sentenced her to 10 years in prison.
Both officers killed unarmed men, but the cases are different. Guyger was off-duty when she said she mistakenly entered Jean’s apartment, which was one floor above her unit, and thought she saw an intruder. Police were called to the scene of Hill’s shooting, and Olsen responded.
Few police officers ever face trial for shooting deaths on duty, let alone are convicted.
Since 2005, there have been 106 law enforcement officers who have been arrested for murder or manslaughter resulting from an on-duty shooting, according to research by Philip Stinson, a professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Stinson’s figures show that 35 officers have been convicted of a crime that resulted from the on-duty shooting. The criminal cases for 45 officers didn’t result in a conviction, and another 26 cases are still pending, including Olsen’s case, according to Stinson.