I first met Bridget when I was just a freshman in high school. Bridget, a senior was loud, energetic, and always had a smile on her face as I passed her down the halls. Four years later, we both ended up two hours away from home at a university in Greenwood, South Carolina; she was the exact same person I knew and admired from back home. As I was getting ready to end my sophomore year, like any normal student, I spent most of my time avoiding the books and scrolling up and down my social media. When I opened up Twitter, I saw a tweet from Bridget stating that her boyfriend was just murdered by police in Georgia. Speechless. My heart dropped for the sweet and loving woman I knew and adored. Since then, it’s been a fight like no other. In a time where the world has witnessed many countless losses of their loved ones, the question is when will it end? In this exclusive interview with Sheen Magazine, Bridget Anderson opens up about the terrible events that forever changed her life in March 2015 and how she’s made it her mission to be Anthony’s voice and many others.
Can you start off by telling our readers a little bit about yourself?
Hi! My name is Bridget Anderson. I’m 25-years-old and I became an activist a little over three years ago through tragedy. My boyfriend, Anthony Hill was killed during a mental health episode by a police officer. I was pushed into the forefront of a movement and have been fighting for justice for him and others since.
When and how did you meet Anthony?
I met Anthony in January of 2012. He was a singer and was featured on a song called, “The Movie” with my friend, Justin. When I heard his voice I thought that it was gorgeous and found his Twitter online. We followed one another for about a year then we began flirting through DMs (laughs). We exchanged numbers and met up about a month later at my school’s homecoming and began dating two months after.
Anthony suffered from PTSD and also had a bipolar disorder. How was it working together as a couple and encouraging one another?
Anthony was in the military and was stationed in Valdosta, Georgia while I was attending university in Greenwood, South Carolina. Since we had a long distance relationship, we made a vow to make communication our number one priority. He let me know about his PTSD before we began dating but I wasn’t surprised by that revelation because I knew he was stationed in Afghanistan. I figured that it was rare for someone to go fight in the war and not come home with some form of PTSD. He was misdiagnosed with anxiety and depression then finally diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. I was raised to accept people for who they are so I made sure that we worked through it. Some days were rough. Sometimes he was so unmotivated he wouldn’t get out of bed and other days, he would stay up all night making music. I did a ton of research on how to support a partner who’s living with bipolar disorder and applied that to our relationship. I gave him words of encouragement when he needed it but I also let him know about himself if I felt I was being treated unfairly. Learning his triggers and learning ways to support him made our loving relationship continue to work and blossom.
Do you mind sharing what happened on March 9th, 2015?
Anthony recently began taking a medication prescribed by the VA hospital that gave him terrible side effects like a swollen tongue and a locked jaw. Since he was an aspiring songwriter, this hindered his ability to record. He stopped his medication and planned to tell the VA’s doctor on the Wednesday after he died to switch his medication or to lower the dosage. Stopping the medication cold turkey had an adverse effect on his psyche.
On March 9th, He was seen by neighbors and his apartment’s staff as doing “military exercises” throughout the neighborhood and on the playground. They called the police to help him because they knew him as a nice guy and the police did not arrive. They called a second time when Anthony took his clothes off and Dekalb County Police officer, Robert Olsen answered the call. When Anthony saw the police he told the maintenance worker, “my friends are here” and jogged towards the officer with his hands out to the side and palms forward. He didn’t hear the officers command to stop and was shot twice in the chest. This was his first and only mental health episode. He was completely naked with no weapons.
How did you find out that the police had killed Anthony?
I knew something was wrong when Anthony wasn’t answering my texts and calls. His roommate then called me saying that the police came to his school to get him and that something happened to Anthony. I didn’t think that he was killed, I figured that he had gotten into a fight or a bad car accident. His roommate called me with updates. He finally called me crying and that’s when I knew that Anthony was gone. I was driving from Macon, GA when he called me and was going 95 on the highway trying to get there as quickly as I could through tears and screams.
Initially, how was life afterward and adjusting without Anthony? How would you say you have progressed since then?
Life afterward was very hard. I lost a ton of weight and I was throwing up multiple times a day from the stress. I sought therapy and that helped with my healing but I was still dealing with the pain of missing him. I turned to music to heal me and began listening to artists like The Internet and Jhene Aiko on repeat. “Penthouse Cloud” by the Internet was a song on their album that talked about police brutality. Jhene Aiko wrote songs about losing her brother to cancer and I related that to losing Anthony. I cried a lot to their music. Dealing with being an overnight activist was probably the hardest part. I never had the time to really grieve until a year after he passed away. I was going hard for a year straight doing media interviews, attending meetings and helping plan rallies and protests. When Officer Olsen was finally indicted, I took a step back to breathe and then everything hit me like a ton of bricks again. My current partner taught me how to self-care. I turned my phone off when I needed to and did things for myself whether it be facials, getting my nails done or locking myself in a room and screaming. I’m forever grateful to her for teaching me that you can’t pour water from an empty cup.
In your opinion, has justice been served?
I believe that we are well on our way to justice. The officer was indicted in January of 2016 and when Olsen tried to get his charges dropped in 2017, it was denied. Georgia is a state where police officers get an immunity hearing. So, we moved forward last month with that hearing and are waiting on the Judge to decide if the case continues to go forward. His family and I are hopeful.
How have you made it your mission to be Anthony’s voice?
Right now, I am working with an amazing organization called, “Us Protecting Us.” We’re a group that educates the public on dealing with police interaction on persons that live with disabilities. We’re aiming for state-funded crisis intervention teams where doctors are sent out to calls with police officers and are planning town halls to educate the public on how to help their neighbors and to not call the police. I believe that Anthony would be proud of the work that we’re doing. We want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else and that people that live with a disability feel safe living in this world.
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For more information on Us Protecting Us, click here!
Featured Image: Sheila Pree Bright