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Calls for police accountability in death of naked black man

March 12, 2015

DECATUR, Georgia (AP) — Residents in the Atlanta area are adding their voices to a nationwide chorus of calls for increased police accountability after an unarmed, naked black man was fatally shot by an officer responding to a complaint of a suspicious person at an apartment complex.

More than 100 protesters gathered in the city of Decatur on Wednesday night to protest the death of Anthony Hill, 27. Most said they hoped the latest shooting would become part of an ongoing national discussion on how police officers interact with citizens, especially minorities.

The relationship between law enforcement and civilians — particularly in poor, minority and high-crime neighborhoods — has become a contentious issue in many states across the U.S. following the high-profile deaths of unarmed men and teens by police officers, some of whom have been exonerated of wrongdoing after saying they perceived the males they shot as threats.

The protests in Decatur came as two police officers were shot in Ferguson, where protesters had gathered following the resignation of the police chief in the wake of a Justice Department report alleging bias in the Missouri city’s police department and court system. Ferguson became a symbol of racial tensions following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white officer.

DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen fatally shot Hill on Monday while responding to reports of a suspicious person knocking on doors and crawling on the ground naked at an apartment complex just outside Atlanta. Hill began running toward Olsen and didn’t stop when ordered to, DeKalb County Chief of Police Cedric Alexander told reporters Monday.

Hill is black and the officer who shot him is white. No weapon was found and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting. Alexander has acknowledged the national debate surrounding police shootings and said he wanted to make sure this investigation is transparent, open and fair.

Hill had served more than four years in the U.S. Air Force when he was medically discharged a few years ago, his girlfriend, Bridget Anderson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. He was being treated by a VA doctor for bipolar disorder but stopped taking the medication a week or two ago because he didn’t like the side effects, including stiffening in his jaw, she said.

Anderson, 22, said she didn’t notice any changes in Hill after he stopped taking his medication and she’d never known him to behave strangely.

Anderson had been planning to go to Hill’s place Monday evening to cook together and celebrate their three-year anniversary. Instead, she got a call that he had been shot dead by police.

Demonstrators remembered Hill as a talented musician who loved the color purple and struggled with mental illness. They marched through the streets for about an hour chanting, singing and occasionally stopping at intersections to sit down and listen to a speaker while police cars blocked traffic.

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Associated Press writer Ray Henry contributed to this report.

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