Saturday, March 14, 2015

While You Were Sleeping: Anthony Hill Shooting

There have been a lot of shootings in the news. Not the kind we're very much used to involving criminals killing innocent people or each other, but police killing citizens. For the last two years this seems to have increased quite a bit and since a lot of the guys being killed are my race it doesn't make me feel all that comfortable around the police. One of the latest that occurred was the third in five days involving a 27 year old Air Force veteran in Atlanta, Georgia named Anthony Hill who was shot and killed by an officer while nude in broad daylight.

Hill wanted to be a musician and had spoken of his mental illness in various tweets and on his Facebook. Some of what he wrote was “I am thankful to be something other than normal. I dont fight my circumstance, I embrace it. I love myself. Always #IamBipolar” as well as “The media continues to paint the same horrific picture of mentally affected people but I have to tell you, there are so many shades in between the extremes.” One of his last messages said “The key think to remember is, #blacklivesmatter, ABSOLUTELY, but not moreso than any other life.”

He was seen by neighbors climbing onto his balcony and repeatedly jumped from it. One said they saw him laying face down on the ground wearing shorts and thought that he was exercising. She said he was speaking strangely. Someone called 911 while another tried to calm Hill down. When the officer, Robert Olsen, showed up Hill was naked and on all fours.

When Hill saw Olsen he came towards him with his hands in the air. Another says that his hands were low. Another says he was running from 20 yards away. Another says that she heard three shots and when she arrived saw Olsen touching Hill and he appeared scared and asked “You saw what happened, right?” One said that Olsen was crying. Witnesses say they heard Olsen tell Hill to stop and when he did not shot him dead. Olsen has been on the force for seven years and is on administrative leave until the investigation is complete.

At a news conference Cedric L. Alexander who is the chief operating officer for public safety said that Olsen did have a Taser but did not know if it was used at the time. I'm guessing no. A relative of Hill said that he was getting some help because he was having problems with the medication he was using. It is said that Olsen did have the training to deal with mentally ill citizens but that the training varies every year.

To me this is getting beyond a Black or White issue. Particularly because its not just a problem of White cops shooting Black men. This is a police having problems with their training, their attitudes, and their reactions. I do not like the fact that I leave the house knowing that because of how I look that I feel as if the people who are paid to protect me can kill me for close to no reason. People bring up body cameras. 

The guy that was killed on Skid Row last week? It was all recorded by someone as well as two of the officers had body cameras. There have been plenty of innocent or excessive force shootings where it was recorded. We have seen it. It means nothing. Being able to see it means nothing.

There needs to be a better vetting process that goes into giving weapons to the people hired to serve and protect us. Better training in handling people they are not used to being around. Better training and understanding of mental illness. And I know this may sound crazy, but how about not getting close enough to have your gun grabbed? In so many stories you hear of officers with their guns out having them grabbed. Immediately if you try this you will be shot. I get that. I understand that. But why are you pointing a gun at someone and being that close at the same time? Nightstick, I get it. Get close. But gun? No. Stop getting that damned close to people you think are a threat.

As it stands I do not trust the police. I know that there are good ones out there and they need to speak up. This code of silence that they have is not helping matters at all. As it stands, if you show me ten cops I'll show you eight that wouldn't hesitate to shoot and kill me and two more who are too new to the force to feel that way yet. I know that someone is reading that and shaking their head. They don't feel even close to the way that I do about the police. But I have had three guns aimed at my face by them, at once, so I have personal experience with being on the other end of a gun. I've only had a criminal do it once. If what happened to me in 1996 happened today I would have known that they were the last thing I'd ever see alive.  

Click here for previous While You Were Sleeping.

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