On Monday, 9 March 2015, Dekalb County police responded to a call about a “deranged” naked man crawling around, knocking on doors. The man, Anthony Hill — who was clearly unarmed — was shot to death by a Dekalb police officer. Hill is the latest in a long line of unarmed black men killed by police. He also reportedly suffered from bipolar disorder, following another troubling pattern of police killing those with mental illness.
Anthony Hill, who also went by the name “Ant Lanta”, was an R&B singer and songwriter who attended the University of South Carolina and served in the Air Force during “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Hill was also a vocal critic of recent police killings in the US, including the killing of 19 year old Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin just three days earlier. On a Facebook post from March 6th, Hill wrote:
“No man (or woman) is ever going to stop me from living the life I envision. I don’t care if he’s white, black or green because I know that my life matters. It starts with one. Empower yourself. Show these kids that #blacklivesmatter by living yours like it does.”
According to Dekalb public safety director Cedric Alexander, local officers undergo “some degree” of mental health training, but he says, “We have already, as many departments have begun to do, looked at how to expand our mental health training when we find it certainly necessary to do so. Because it appears that we’re seeing more and more of these cases across the country in which police are engaging with those who appear to be in distress.”
The US prison system is already flooded with mentally ill inmates and in 2014 a number of unarmed Americans suffering from mental illness, including 25-year old Ezell Ford in Los Angeles and 37-year old Tanesha Anderson of Cleveland, OH, were killed by police. This follows the already troubling, and well-known, trend of police killing unarmed people of color.
The killing of Anthony Hill comes less than three months after Dekalb police killed Kevin Davis. Davis had called 911 to report a stabbing and, fearing the assailant had returned after hearing gunshots outside, retrieved his gun. He was shot by police, who also killed his dog, and arrested for assault. He later died, under armed guard, at Grady Memorial hospital in Atlanta. Despite popular protests for a proper investigation, no charges have been filed in the case.
The Anthony Hill case has been turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for an “independent” probe, but countless other cases have already demonstrated the justice system is incapable of holding itself accountable. On the rare occasion officers are indicted or taken to trial for killing unarmed civilians, they are rarely given more than a slap on the wrist. Many end up patrolling the same neighborhoods and sometimes end up killing again.
The mountains of North Georgia are by no means immune to police violence. In Habersham County last year, narcotics officers mangled 19-month old Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh during a no-knock raid. The raid failed to turn up any drugs or the suspect they were looking for and resulted in a huge public uproar. Still, no one has been held accountable and Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell laughed through an interview with WSB-TV about the baby, who was severely disfigured by a flash-bang grenade in the raid. The county and the sheriff’s office have repeatedly refused to cover the family’s medical costs of over one-million dollars.
We cannot rely on a system that disproportionately targets and incarcerates people of color and those suffering from mental illness to seek justice when these people become victims of police violence. Meaningful changes will never emerge from the same oppressive systems that routinely murder our friends, family, and neighbors without consequence. We need to stand up and hold these institutions, and the people who run them, accountable for the racism and violence that pervades every aspect of the present social order.
To put an end to police violence and work toward meaningful social justice that includes everyone, we must demand that police be disarmed and out-of-control police forces like that in Dekalb County be abolished. Until that happens, people in marginalized communities will continue to be oppressed, and as we’ve seen killed, by institutions that routinely place less value on their lives. Body cameras and “independent” investigations by other law enforcement officials is not enough. Politicians consistently shown their unwillingness to side with the people and continue to protect, and refuse to prosecute, officers involved in these cases. We must continue asserting our right to defend ourselves, govern ourselves, and work toward building a revolutionary new world with social freedom and justice for more than just the privileged social classes.
Police violence won’t stop until we make it stop.
There will be an action in support of Anthony Hill and his family on the Square in Downtown Decatur Wednesday, March 11th at 6pm
For more information:
More mentally ill people killed by police in 2014:
The Kevin Davis case:
WSB Interview with Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell: