• Self-defense or excessive force? Jurors will decide cop's fate in naked vet's killing

    By: Christian Boone and Bill Rankin with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Updated:

    DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - The jury was dismissed Thursday evening in the case of the DeKalb County police officer who killed a naked, unarmed veteran.

    The lead prosecutor in the murder trial of Robert "Chip" Olsen urged jurors weighing the former DeKalb police officer's fate to keep it simple.

    "We are here for one reason," he said during his closing. "Were the defendant's actions reasonable on that day? If they were not, then he is guilty."

    But the defense team called Olsen a "good cop who had to make a tough decision" when he shot and killed a naked, unarmed man at a metro apartment complex in March 2015.

    Olsen faces life in prison if convicted on either of two felony murder charges. He declined to testify, and the defense didn't call a single witness during the five-day trial.

    Afghanistan war veteran Anthony Hill, 26, had stopped taking medications he took for bipolar disorder and was in the middle of a mental health crisis when he encountered Olsen in the parking lot of the Heights at Chamblee apartment complex. Hill ran toward Olsen, who yelled at him to stop. When Hill failed to comply, Olsen fired twice.

    Olsen, now 57, was the first officer to respond. On Thursday, he sat stiff and upright, staring straight ahead as Johnson made the state's case. 

          


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    "(Olsen) drove into that apartment complex, looked to his left, saw Anthony Hill crouching naked and stopped the car when he saw him squatting," Johnson said. "And what's the first thing Officer Olsen does? He pulls out his gun." 

    The defense said their client was "scared to death" and feared great bodily injury. 

    "This is not self-defense," Johnson said. "This is excessive force. Annoyed and panicked does not equal reasonable fear."

    But the defense told a different story.

    When Hill began running at Olsen and kept advancing after Olsen pulled out his handgun and yelled at Hill to stop, "Chip Olsen could only assume that person had bad intentions," Amanda Clark Palmer said. 

    "He was scared for his life," she said after playing a recording of a panicked and breathless Olsen reporting to dispatch that he'd just shot Hill. 

    "His decision was reasonable," Clark Palmer said. "He's not a murderer. ... He acted in what he believed to be self-defense." 

    Clark Palmer asked the jurors to find Olsen not guilty of two counts of felony murder and four other counts facing him. 

    Police officers, she said, have the same right as any member of society to defend themselves when the situation calls for it.

    "While they're not above the law, they're not below the law, either," she said. 

    Clark Palmer said all the eyewitnesses who testified at trial gave consistent testimony. 

    All said Hill was running at Olsen and that he never stopped running at Olsen except to slow down as he neared the officer, she said. Hill also did not comply with Olsen's demands that he stop and Olsen was backing up as Hill ran toward him, she said. 

    Clark Palmer then focused on the eyewitness whose testimony strongly supported the defense's case.

    At the trial, maintenance worker Pedro Castillo Flores was asked if Olsen had to shoot Hill to stop him. Castillo Flores not only answered yes, he also testified that it looked like Hill was "attacking Officer Olsen," was charging at him and it looked like Hill wanted to challenge him, Clark Palmer said.

    "This is the state's witness," she reminded the jury. 

    Clark Palmer closed by telling the jury that what happened to Hill on March 9, 2015, was "a tragedy." And jurors may believe Olsen should not be a police officer anymore and maybe was a coward, she said. 

    But Olsen is not guilty as charged, she said.

    This article was written by Christian Boone and Bill Rankin, with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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