Ex-Cop Who Killed Naked, Unarmed Vet Has Convictions Overturned

Police use of force policy doesn't supersede Georgia's self-defense law, attorney says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 13, 2024 5:05 PM CDT
Ex-Cop Who Killed Naked, Unarmed Vet Has Convictions Overturned
Former DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen prepares to be processed after his sentencing, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Decatur, Georgia.   (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

An appeals court has overturned the convictions of a former Georgia police officer who shot and killed an unarmed, naked man. Robert "Chip" Olsen was responding to a call of a naked man behaving erratically at an Atlanta-area apartment complex in March 2015 when he killed 26-year-old Anthony Hill, an Air Force veteran who'd been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Olsen, who worked for the DeKalb County Police Department, said he was acting in self-defense. In 2019, a jury found Olsen guilty of of one count of aggravated assault, two counts of violating his oath of office, and one count of making a false statement. But jurors found him not guilty on two counts of felony murder.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Prior to trial, Olsen's lawyers had argued against the DeKalb County Police Department's use of force policy being submitted as evidence, the AP reports. They said that some of its provisions conflicted with Georgia's self-defense law and that admitting it would confuse the jury.

  • The trial court was wrong to admit the policy into evidence without identifying and redacting the portions that conflict with Georgia law, state Court of Appeals Judge Brian Rickman wrote in a unanimous opinion Tuesday. That error was compounded, he wrote, when jurors were told the policy could be used "to assess the reasonableness" of Olsen's using deadly force.
  • Georgia law says the use of force that is intended or likely to cause death is justified if a person "reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." That law "expressly nullifies any local rules or policies in conflict with its provision," Rickman wrote.
  • The DeKalb County police use of force policy instructs that officers "must exhaust every means available of non-lethal force, prior to utilizing deadly force." It also says, "Any threat used to justify the use of deadly force must be immediate and there must be no other possible remedy."

Rickman, writing for a three-judge panel, noted that prosecutors can retry Olsen on the aggravated assault charge. But the opinion says the state cannot retry him on the violation of oath counts because those were based on a violation of the use of force policy. Don Samuel, an attorney for Olsen, 61, said they are "delighted" with the ruling. "It was clear from the outset of this case that the local police department's 'Use of Force Policy' was not a document that supersedes the state law that governs all cases involving self-defense," Samuel told the AP. "The Court of Appeals was correct in denouncing the prosecution's use of that county policy instead of state law." DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said she plans to appeal. (More police shooting stories.)

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