By Shaun King
Twenty-seven-year-old Anthony Hill was an Air Force veteran in the Iraq War and an extremely talented musician. Beloved by his girlfriend, family, and friends, he was gunned down on Monday by police in Chamblee, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. Unlike so many cases where police officers claim to have seen their victim "reach for a gun," or strangely dig into their waistband (a thing only police ever see an unarmed black man do), none of those things can be claimed in this instance.
Anthony, who valiantly and publicly struggled with mental illness and bipolar disorder, was walking and rolling around on the ground in his apartment complex completely naked. Clearly having some type of psychotic episode, witnesses observed Anthony and called police to help him. He threatened no one.
Sadly, the police did show up. And yes, you guessed it, even in one of the blackest police forces in the country, a white officer, claiming he feared for his life, shot Anthony and killed him.
The insanity of this is mind-blowing because I lived and worked in Dekalb County for years and cannot recall ever even seeing a white police officer there. It's not that a white police officer is incapable of being fair to a black man struggling with mental illness, but it's abundantly clear that the first instinct of this officer was to use lethal force instead of anything else that could have been used to have Anthony hospitalized like this man—with sharp knives, mind you—in front of Buckingham Palace in the UK. At a time where we are learning about white police captains and sergeants who jokingly compare African Americans to animals and celebrate black abortions for the crime they will prevent, society is left to wonder what white officers may be thinking of the African Americans they are paid to police.
The officer also wasn’t identified by Dekalb County Police Chief Alexander, but he said the officer is a seven-year veteran of the DeKalb department and is a white male.
Alexander said the officer was armed with a Taser. He declined to comment when asked if the officer should have used the stun gun instead of shooting Hill, saying “we need to wait and see what the outcome of the investigation is.” He said he doesn’t know “what measure or countermeasures the officers may have taken,” stating that more will be learned from witness statements and physical evidence taken from the scene.
What circumstance would have been more appropriate to use a Taser than this one in which you are 100 percent sure the man you are approaching is completely unarmed? It must have been obvious that Anthony was struggling through a psychotic episode of some sort. If this officer was trained to deal with those struggling with mental illness, as Dekalb County claims, what in his training did he use here? It appears nothing at all.
Sadly, we are seeing instance after instance of men and women struggling with mental illness being gunned down by police. A wounded war vet, Brian Beaird was also unarmed and nonviolent when police gunned him down on live television.
Lavall Hall, struggling with mental illness, had only a red broomstick when police shot and killed him.
James Boyd, a homeless man struggling with mental illness, was mercilessly gunned down by Albuquerque police.
Matthew Ojibade's family called the police for help because of a psychotic episode he was having and gave police his medication. He died in their custody.
Antonio Zambrano-Montes, homeless and struggling with mental illness, was throwing rocks when police gunned him down like an animal.
There's also 17-year-old Kristina Coignard, who was battling through depression when police shot and killed her.
Milton Hall was completely surrounded by police in Saginaw, Michigan. Confused and struggling with mental illness, they shot at Hall 46 times and killed him.
This list of men and women battling through mental illness but soon killed by police sadly goes on and on. Something major has to change.