Jurors was sent home Monday after announcing they remained deadlocked on some of the charges against former DeKalb County officer Robert Olsen. They received the case Friday.
It marks the second time in a week that an American jury was asked to determine the fate of a white police officer charged with killing an unarmed black man. Last week, a Texas jury sentenced former Dallas officer Amber Guyger to 10 years in prison for killing Botham Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, in his own apartment.
Olsen is accused of the March 2015 killing of Anthony Hill, a 26-year-old US Air Force veteran of the Afghanistan War. Hill was naked when Olsen shot him in the chest and neck. Trial testimony indicated that Hill struggled with mental illness.
The ex-officer stands charged with two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault, violation of oath of office and making a false statement.
On the day Hill was shot, someone in his 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.
A seven-year veteran of the department, Olsen was dispatched and “when (Hill) 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.
During closing arguments Thursday, the prosecution claimed Olsen did not follow protocol for using force. Assistant District Attorney Lance Cross 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’s “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 had no history of violence, and he never faced accusations of using excessive force during his time with the department, the defense said.
Witnesses said Olsen asked Hill several times to stop as he ran toward him and that Hill slowed down just before Olsen pulled the trigger.
Hill had his arms up with nowhere to hide a weapon, witnesses said under prosecutors’ questioning, but defense attorney Don Samuel argued his client didn’t have a clear picture of Hill’s actions or his background. He knew only that people had called 911 scared of a man acting up, Samuel said.
“How does a human being react when you have six or seven seconds, and someone is running at you?” Samuel said.
Since 2005, 106 law enforcement officers 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. Of those, 35 officers have been convicted of a crime.