John Bazemore / AP Photo

Georgia grand jury indicts police officer for murder of black man

DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen was indicted on six charges for the March shooting of 27-year-old Anthony Hill

A grand jury indicted a white police officer on Thursday for felony murder and other criminal charges in the shooting death of an unarmed, naked black man at an apartment complex near Atlanta last March.

The charges come as prosecutors face increased scrutiny over how they treat cases of police use of deadly force, particularly against minorities. The Black Lives Matter movement, sparked by police killings of unarmed black men since 2014, has focused attention on race and policing.

Robert Olsen
DeKalb County Police Department/Reuters

DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James told reporters that DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen was indicted on six charges for the March 9 shooting of 27-year-old Anthony Hill.

Olsen was indicted on two counts each of felony murder and violating oath of office and one count each of aggravated assault and making a false statement.

Hill, a U.S. Air Force veteran who suffered from bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, was having a manic episode when he was shot to death while naked in the parking lot of his apartment building, according to his family.

Olsen told a civil grand jury last year that Hill was coming at him in a hostile manner and disobeyed commands to stop, making him feel threatened.

The grand jury at the time recommended further investigation.

"My job as a prosecutor is to seek justice," James told the news conference. "That's what we do in every case, and that's what we did in this case.

James said a warrant was issued for Olsen's arrest and that he expected him to be taken into custody soon.

Olsen's attorney, Donald English, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Protesters in Atlanta had braved frigid nights and camped out in front of the courthouse this week, demanding justice for Hill.

A crowd of several dozen outside the courthouse burst into cheers upon hearing the decision and repeatedly chanted, "All six counts."

Hill's mother, Carolyn Giummo, thanked the crowd, some of whom had camped on a patch of grass outside the courthouse for several days to show their support. She said she's grateful the grand jury reached the decision it did.

"The message is that you have to be accountable for your own actions," Giummo said. "When you decide to do something, if it's not right, there are consequences and you have to be held accountable for it."

James' office takes the somewhat unusual step of presenting every case involving a shooting by an officer to a grand jury for civil review, and the grand jurors recommend whether the case should be considered for criminal prosecution. Ultimately, the district attorney decides whether to seek indictment.

Grand jurors in October heard evidence in Olsen's case but said inconsistencies and contradictions prevented them from being able to recommend whether or not the district attorney should pursue indictment. The grand jurors said more information was needed.

Additional investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting led James to conclude that there was enough evidence to support charges on the six counts, he said earlier this month when he announced his decision to bring the case before another grand jury for criminal consideration. James was also allowed to proactively argue for indictment during the criminal presentation, something he wasn't allowed to do during the civil review.

Hill's family in November filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the DeKalb County Police Department, Olsen, the county and its board of commissioners.

Wire services

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