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Ga. appeals court reverses conviction for ex-officer in fatal shooting of man suffering mental health crisis

The panel of judges unanimously reversed former DeKalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen’s conviction after finding that the department’s use-of-force policy conflicted with state law


Former DeKalb Police officer Robert “Chip” Olsen faced murder charges in the death of Anthony Hill. (Bob Andres /

Bob Andres/TNS

By Bill Rankin
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Georgia’s Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed the convictions against a former DeKalb County police officer who shot and killed a naked and unarmed mentally ill war veteran.

Robert “Chip” Olsen was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being convicted of aggravated assault and violating his oath of office for the fatal shooting of Anthony Hill, a 26-year-old Air Force veteran and aspiring singer. Olsen, who said he acted in self-defense, was acquitted at the 2019 trial of felony murder, which would have resulted in a life sentence.

On March 9, 2015, Hill had stopped taking his medications for bipolar disorder and was wandering his Chamblee apartment complex naked when he encountered Olsen who had been called to the scene by the apartment manager. Hill ran toward Olsen, who fired two shots from six to eight feet away after Hill ignored his commands to stop.

In Tuesday’s opinion, written by Judge Brian Rickman, a unanimous three-judge panel said prosecutors were improperly allowed to put into evidence the full version of the DeKalb County Police Department’s use of force policy. That is because certain parts of the county’s policy conflict with Georgia’s law governing self-defense, making the county’s provisions “null, void and of no force or effect to the criminal charges lodged against (Olsen),” the opinion said.

DeKalb’s policy, for example, said officers “must exhaust every means available of non-lethal force, prior to utilizing deadly force.” And the policy said it is “for department use only.”

Georgia law says a person is justified in using potential deadly force “if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person.” State law also says that any county policy that is in conflict with state law is null and void.

“We are happy with the decision,” Amanda Clark Palmer, one of Olsen’s attorneys, said. “We believe the court got it absolutely right.”

DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston said the case isn’t over.

“We have worked tirelessly to hold Robert Olsen accountable for the death of Anthony Hill,” she said. “While we respect the Court of Appeals, we wholeheartedly disagree with their decision and will appeal this matter to the Georgia Supreme Court.”

In the opinion, Rickman wrote that Olsen can be retried on the aggravated assault charge but cannot be retried for violating his oath because that count was based on the use of force policy.

Olsen has been in prison since 2019 after being sentenced to 12 years in custody for aggravated assault and five years in custody for the violation of oath conviction, which was to be served concurrent to the aggravated assault sentence.

Separately, he was sentenced to five years on probation for violating his oath of office for making a false statement to police after the fatal shooting. He did not appeal his conviction on that count.

The case against Olsen was the subject of the seventh season — “Judgment Call” —of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast.


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