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Surprise defense move in last day of trial for Robert Olsen, former DeKalb Police officer who shot unarmed, naked veteran

Olsen is facing six charges, including felony murder, for shooting Anthony Hill in the parking lot of his apartment complex in 2015.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — The courtroom was filled Thursday morning with people awaiting the first defense witness when the defense made a surprising announcement: they rest their case. 

The testimony portion of Olsen’s trial ended without calling a single defense witness.

Olsen was on duty on March 9, 2015 when he responded to a 911 call about a person who was possibly in mental distress. Olsen arrived at the scene and saw Hill, who was naked and unarmed, running towards his car. Olsen said he got out of his patrol car, yelled stop twice, then drew his gun and shot Hill twice because he was in fear for his life.

What was not known at the time was that Hill was a diagnosed bipolar who was off his medication. His family says he was in the midst of a mental breakdown.

Closing Arguments

Attorneys presented closing arguments on Thursday afternoon. Prosecutors began by taking jurors back to the moments after Olsen arrived at The Heights at Chamblee apartments.

“What’s the first thing Officer Olsen does,” asked DeKalb County Asst. District Attorney Pete Johnson. “He pulls out his gun. Pulls out his gun. Deadly force. An unarmed, nude man running, jogging, not sprinting as he (Olsen) said towards him. His answer to how am I going to deal with this is deadly force.”

During the trial, prosecutors pointed out the other weapons Olsen had at his disposal: baton, taser, spray.

“That’s what this case was about: were his actions reasonable,” said Johnson. “Were the defendant’s actions reasonable that day. Because if they’re not, and we contend they are not, then he is guilty.

Olsen said he was in fear for his life. A witness to the shooting agreed he also thought Olsen was in danger. Johnson said Olsen never said he was scared during his interview with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in the days after the shooting.

RELATED: 'He was very peaceful': Those close to Anthony Hill were in disbelief at shooting

“Is that where we’re at in society? When you’re concerned about a confrontation your answer is to shoot someone dead,” Johnson told the jury. “No one, no one, including police officers, is above the law.”

Amanda Clark Palmer did closing arguments for the defense. She began by focusing on Olsen, a married father of a young child.

“This man, back here, Robert ‘Chip’ Olsen was a good cop,” said Clark Palmer.

Clark Palmer then walked from the podium to the defense table. She stood behind Olsen so the jury would see him when they looked at her. She put her hands on his shoulders and continued talking about him.  

“He was a good cop who had to make a tough decision,” said Clark Palmer. “And those few seconds he had when a suspicious person who was possibly demented, possibly high on PCP who was ignoring his commands to stop, ignoring a police officer pointing a gun at him yelling ‘Stop. Stop.’ Chip Olsen could only assume that person had bad intentions.”

Clark Palmer told the jury about the limited information Olsen had available to him at the time of the shooting. She said he didn’t know Hill was a veteran, had a mental health issue, was off his medication, and was a resident at that apartment complex.

“He made a tough decision to use deadly force to defend himself,” Clark Palmer told the jury.

She then walked the jury through all the things she said Olsen did to give Hill a chance to stop running and comply with commands:

-Getting out of his patrol car

-Yelling stop

-Backing up as Hill approached

-Drawing his weapon as a show of force

Clark Palmer pointed out that the witnesses to the shooting all said Hill never stopped running towards Olsen, Hill never said anything or complied with Hill’s commands to stop and that Olsen was backing up.

“Every witness, every single witness came in here and said officer Olsen was scared, shocked, devastated. That he was crying,” said Clark Palmer.

The defense attorney finished by addressing the current climate of suspicion or mistrust that surrounds police in many communities.

“We expect a lot from them but police officers are not perfect and they’re not robots,” said Clark Palmer. “They are human beings like me and like you. He wasn’t a bad cop. He was good cop who had to make a very tough decision. “

What happens next?

Much of the morning was taken up by defense arguing to dismiss the charges. In the end all charges remained the same but one portion of Count 4 (violation of oath) was removed.

The trial continues to stream live in this story and on the 11Alive's YouTube page. Bookmark this page or sign up for alerts in the 11Alive app to keep up with developments.

More background on the case

Jury selection gets underway for ex-DeKalb police officer accused of killing naked, unarmed veteran

Former DeKalb Police officer accused of killing naked, unarmed veteran rejected plea deal

Former cop pleads not guilty of murder charges in Anthony Hill shooting

Report details previous complaint against indicted officer

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