ATLANTA - Retired Army Lt. Colonel Amos King has been on a mission to advocate for veterans killed in police encounters ever since Air Force veteran Anthony Hill was fatally shot by then DeKalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen in 2015. Concerned residents at a Chamblee apartment complex called 911 when they spotted Hill naked and behaving erratically in the parking lot on March 9.
"A lot of veterans are dealing with mental illness in the military. Anthony Hill’s case is one of the most egregious. He was naked. He did no wrong," said King, who served in the U.S. Army for 28 years.
King and other DeKalb County veterans and supporters chose the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer to shift the spotlight on veterans like Hill--who was unarmed when Olsen shot him within seconds of arriving at the complex.
"Hill's mental illness, his PTSD, and bipolar disorder caused him to behave like that and the officer who killed him was not convicted of murder," King said standing outside of the DeKalb County Courthouse where Olsen was sentenced four and a half years after the fatal shooting.
In October 2019, a DeKalb County jury--sharply divided over a felony murder charge-- chose to convict Olsen of aggravated assault, violation of oath, and making false statements to avoid being deadlocked. The judge sentenced Olsen to 12 years in prison, followed by 8 years of probation.
Retired Major Samuel Mosteller, who was a military police officer in the Army, said deadly encounters between veterans and police officers prove there needs to be more of a focus on veteran’s mental health and police training.
"A lot of these officers are veterans, but they don’t understand the results of PTSD from a clinical aspect, so we have some officers overstepping their bounds with violence that’s not necessary," said Mosteller, who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years.
Like many calling for passage of the George Floyd Policing Act in Washington, King and Mosteller would like to see a lot of reform in police policy. At a local level, they’d like to see trained mental health experts respond to more 911 calls where a subject has been identified as mentally unstable.
"A social worker would be fine. As long as you have someone who understands what those people are dealing with and can make an assessment.
"We’re just trying to stop them from getting killed," said the retired Lieutenant Colonel. "What happened to George Floyd was indeed a tragedy and his family was invited to the White House today. But Anthony Hill's family should have been invited to the White House a long time ago."
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