DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — A former Georgia police officer who fatally shot an unarmed, naked man was found not guilty of murder Monday but was convicted of aggravated assault and other charges that could send him to prison for more than 30 years.
Robert “Chip” Olsen’s face turned red and he squeezed his eyes shut tightly as the verdict was read. His wife, Kathy Olsen, began sobbing and had to be led from the courtroom.
DeKalb County Superior Court Judge LaTisha Dear Jackson set bond for Olsen at $80,000, ordered him to wear an ankle monitor and imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in effect until his sentencing Nov. 1.
Olsen, now 57, was a DeKalb County police officer in March 2015 when he responded to a call of a naked man behaving erratically outside an Atlanta-area apartment complex. Shortly after arriving, he fatally shot 26-year-old Anthony Hill, an Air Force veteran who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. A grand jury indicted Olsen nearly a year after the shooting. Olsen is white and Hill was black.
Hill’s parents asked the judge to deny bond for Olsen.
“It’s been four years that we’ve been waiting for this,” said his mother, Carolyn Giummo. “My son is no longer here. … I just feel like it’s time now.”
In addition to aggravated assault, Olsen was convicted of two counts of violating his oath of office and one count of making a false statement. The assault charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years; each of the other three counts carries a sentence of up to five years.
The jury acquitted Olsen on two counts of felony murder, charges that would have carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison. A felony murder charge doesn’t imply intent to kill but rather that a death occurred as a person was committing another felony, in this case aggravated assault or violation of his oath.
Monday’s verdict came on the heels of a Texas jury finding a white former Dallas police officer guilty of murder in the shooting death of a black man. Amber Guyger was returning home after a long shift when she shot Botham Jean. Guyger testified that she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was one floor below, and thought he was a burglar in her home. She was convicted on Oct. 1 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
A few days later, on Oct. 5, a jury in southeastern Georgia found a white former police officer who fatally shot a fleeing, unarmed black man not guilty on charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Jurors found Zechariah Presley guilty of violating his oath of office in the 2018 shooting of Tony Green in coastal Camden County, near the Georgia-Florida state line.
In the Olsen case , the apartment complex property manager testified that she saw Hill, a resident of the complex, wearing shorts but no shoes or shirt and behaving strangely on March 9, 2015. After maintenance workers got him to go to his apartment, he reemerged a short time later without any clothes.
The property manager, who testified that she was worried for Hill’s safety because he was behaving so bizarrely, called 911 three times.
Olsen was told by dispatch there was a naked man who was “possibly demented.” Hill was squatting in a roadway when Olsen arrived but jumped up and ran toward the patrol car, according to testimony from several witnesses.
Olsen got out of his car and yelled, “Stop! Stop!” Hill didn’t stop, and Olsen shot him twice, witnesses said.
Prosecutors argued that Olsen unreasonably and unnecessarily used deadly force to deal with the unarmed, naked man who was suffering a mental health crisis. Defense attorneys countered that Olsen had limited information about the situation, was scared to death and had only seconds to make a tough decision.
During closing arguments, lawyers for both sides told jurors they needed to decide whether Olsen’s actions were reasonable given the situation.
Early in their deliberations, the jurors sent the judge a note saying they’d reached an agreement on some counts but were deadlocked on others. The judge told them at the time to keep deliberating. The verdict finally came on the sixth day of deliberations.
DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston, whose office prosecuted the case, said she appreciated the time the jurors spent and respected their verdict.
“I can’t speculate as to what was in all those jurors’ minds, but I think all of you know that these cases are very difficult, not just here in Georgia but across the United States,” Boston said. “It is very difficult to prosecute a police officer for murder under these circumstances.”
Attorneys for Olsen didn’t immediately comment and didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on the verdict Monday.