- Associated Press - Thursday, September 26, 2019

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) - A man fatally shot by a police officer was “unarmed, unclothed and unable to do harm,” a prosecutor told jurors Thursday. But a defense attorney repeatedly stressed that the officer had only seconds to react as the man ran at him.

The jury heard opening statements Thursday in the trial of Robert “Chip” Olsen. The former DeKalb County police officer faces charges, including felony murder, in the March 2015 death of 26-year-old Anthony Hill at an Atlanta-area apartment complex.

Olsen sat at the defense table with his hands clasped and facing forward during the opening statements.

Prosecutor Buffy Thomas talked about Hill and Olsen and then walked jurors through what happened the day of the shooting. Defense attorney Don Samuel said there weren’t many disagreements on the facts of the case.

Hill joined the Air Force in 2008 and served just under five years before he was medically discharged after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD, Thomas said. Olsen, now 57, had been a police officer for seven years.

Around 1 p.m. on March 9, 2015, leasing office staff at the apartment complex where Hill lived saw him lying on the ground outside wearing only shorts. He got up and knocked on the door of the leasing office.

Two maintenance workers saw Hill behaving strangely and tried to get him to go home. Hill said he needed help, that the devil was coming and that he loved his mother. One of the workers helped him home, but Hill reemerged a short time later completely naked.

Hill was hanging on railings and doing a military crawl on the playground, Thomas said. When one of the maintenance workers tried to get him to go home and said the police were coming, Hill told him, “Good, the police are my friends.”

The leasing staff office had called 911 three times as this played out.

When Olsen drove into the complex, he looked through a gap between buildings and saw Hill crouching. Olsen continued around a bend so his patrol car was facing Hill.

Hill jumped up and ran toward the car. Olsen exited his vehicle, drew his gun and shouted, “Stop! Stop!” Hill didn’t stop running, and Olsen fired twice when Hill was about 5 to 7 feet away.

Olsen told the second officer on the scene that Hill had attacked him and pounded on his chest. But Thomas told jurors that witnesses said Hill never touched or threatened Olsen. Under questioning by Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents the next week, Olsen “never, ever said he was afraid.”

“He wasn’t afraid,” Thomas said. “He was uncomfortable with this naked man running at him. That’s what it was.”

Olsen’s use of deadly force was excessive and he violated department policy and his oath of office, Thomas said.

Samuel, the defense attorney, told jurors that while they may wish by the end of the trial that Olsen had reacted differently, they won’t be able to conclude he’s guilty of murder.

“This case boils down to all of about 6 or 7 seconds that Chip Olsen had to react to what any person would view as being an imminent use of violent force against him,” Samuel said.

Olsen didn’t know Hill lived at the complex or that he suffered from mental illness, but he knew there had been three 911 calls reporting a possibly demented person, Samuel said.

Olsen tried to deescalate the situation and pulled his gun to gain control, not to shoot, Samuel said. But Hill didn’t stop running even as Olsen yelled to stop and took steps backward.

“I just want you to think for a second how frightening that must be, how frightening it was for Chip Olsen,” Samuel said.

Samuel rejected suggestions that Olsen should have used one of the other tools he had available, like a stun gun, baton or pepper spray. None of those work well when someone is approaching quickly, he said.

Hill’s mother, Carolyn Giummo, testified about her son’s mental illness and peaceful nature. Jurors also heard testimony Thursday from the apartment complex property manager, who said she called 911 because she worried about Hill’s safety, not because she was afraid of him. They also saw video of Hill walking around naked.

Olsen is charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, violation of oath of office and making a false statement. He resigned nearly a year after the shooting, following his indictment.

A felony murder charge doesn’t mean prosecutors believe Olsen acted with malice but rather that he killed someone while committing another felony, in this case aggravated assault or violation of his oath.

Authorities said after the shooting that Hill was 27. His mother testified Thursday that he was 26 when he died.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide