DECATUR, Ga. — A former Georgia police officer was found guilty on Monday of several lesser charges, but not of murder, for the killing of Anthony Hill, an unarmed black man the officer encountered wandering naked outside an apartment complex in 2015.
The jury returned its verdict after deliberations that began on Oct. 4, resolving a case that had dragged on for years as judges recused themselves and other delays held up the trial.
The officer, Robert Olsen, had been with the DeKalb County Police Department for seven years when he responded on March 9, 2015, to several 911 calls from neighbors who had seen Mr. Hill, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran, walking around undressed and acting bizarrely in public areas of his suburban apartment complex east of Atlanta. Relatives and friends said that Mr. Hill had bipolar disorder and that he had been left traumatized by his experiences in combat.
As the verdict was read on Monday, Mr. Olsen, who is white and who resigned from the police force when he was indicted, stared ahead and appeared visibly relieved when he heard the not guilty decision on the murder counts. But as the rest of the verdict was read, his face stiffened and his eyes twitched. His wife shook and sobbed, and had to be led out of the courtroom.
Relatives of Mr. Hill, including his mother, Carolyn Giummo, also wiped tears from their eyes.
Mr. Olsen, 57, awaits sentencing. Though he no longer faces the mandatory life sentence that would have accompanied a murder conviction, he may still receive a lengthy prison term for the other charges, which include aggravated assault, making false statements and violating his oath of office.
The immediate response to the verdict from some activists was that the jury’s decision offered a measure of justice, trailing a drumbeat of cases of police officers involved in deadly encounters that have yielded mixed results.
Mr. Olsen had faced two felony murder charges. Under Georgia law, causing the death of a person, intentionally or not, during the commission of another felony is defined as felony murder. In this case, the murder charges were linked to the charges of aggravated assault, for shooting Mr. Hill, and to violation of an officer’s oath, for breaching his department’s use-of-force policy.
Rick Rojas is a national correspondent for The New York Times covering the American South. He has been a staff reporter for The Times since 2014. @RaR
Richard Fausset is a correspondent based in Atlanta. He mainly writes about the American South, focusing on politics, culture, race, poverty and criminal justice. He previously worked at the Los Angeles Times, including as a foreign correspondent in Mexico City. @RichardFausset
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