- Associated Press - Monday, July 13, 2020

SAN DIEGO (AP) - A former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy was charged with second-degree murder for shooting an escaping detainee, prosecutors said Monday.

Aaron Russell, 23, was scheduled for arraignment Tuesday in connection with the May 1 death of Nicholas Bils, 36.

Bils had been arrested by state park rangers after he threatened a ranger with a golf club at Old Town San Diego State Park, police said.

Bils was inside a rangers’ patrol car parked outside San Diego Central Jail when he managed to get a hand free from his handcuffs, reached through a window to open the car door from outside, got out and began running, police said.

Russell and another deputy were on their way to the jail when they saw Bils, who was unarmed.



Russell pulled his gun and fired, killing Bils, authorities said.

Bils had a history of mental illness and running away from police, his brother, Ben Bils, told KFMB-TV in May.

“He was just scared,” Bils said.

Russell had been with the Sheriff’s Department for 18 months at at the time of the shooting. He resigned a short time later.

Russell was arrested on Monday and was jailed on $1 million bail. He could face 15 years to life in state prison if convicted.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had an attorney to speak on his behalf.

“When a life is taken, we must make decisions based in facts and law, and not ones that are influenced by the status of the accused as a peace officer nor the status of the victim,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement. “These decisions must be made solely in the interest of justice and not based on favoritism nor public opinion. Every person must be accountable under the law.”

The shooting was captured on video surveillance but it wasn’t being released because it “is now evidence in a pending criminal case and releasing it publicly could jeopardize the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” the statement said.

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