According to research done by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, 184 people have been killed by police in Georgia in the last five years.
In not one case, even when the victim was unarmed or shot in the back, has the police officer been prosecuted for any crime.
That wretched record may be about to change.
On March 9, 2015, DeKalb County policeman Robert Olson killed Anthony Hill, a 26-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and being bipolar.
Hill was a singer/songwriter who aspired to have a career in the music business. Always smiling, he was loved by the children in his mostly Latino/a and African-American, Chamblee, Ga., apartment complex for his willingness to play sports with them.
According to his partner, Bridget Anderson, he had recently stopped taking his medication because of its debilitating side effects and had made a follow-up appointment at the Veterans Administration.
In the early afternoon of March 9, a neighbor called 911 requesting help after seeing a naked Hill, climbing down from his second-floor balcony, and then crawling and rolling on the ground.
Olson claimed he was in fear of his life when he fired twice at Hill and killed him. Some witnesses say that Hill was in a prayer-like position when Olson pulled up in his squad car and had his arms outstretched as he walked toward the officer.
Hill’s body lay in the parking lot as the school bus bringing the complex’s children home drove onto the property. Angry that police had not covered him, his neighbors quickly put a sheet over the corpse.
Hill’s death evoked large and militant protests with hundreds blocking the downtown streets of Decatur, the county seat, and in Chamblee.
On Jan. 7, DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James held a press conference to announce that on Jan. 21 he will bring to a criminal grand jury two charges of felony murder, as well as aggravated assault, two counts of violating the oath of office and providing false statements against Officer Olson.
One unique feature of the Georgia grand jury process that has made indictments against police officers even more unlikely is the extraordinary privilege of the officers being allowed to observe the entire proceedings. This not only includes hearing all the witness testimony and forensic evidence, but also being able to make a final statement before deliberation that cannot be cross-examined or rebutted by the prosecutor.
Hill’s family and friends, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Atlanta social justice community are determined to win justice — no matter the odds — not just for Hill but for all the others too, whose lives have been taken by a racist and unjust system.