Feds Indict Former San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy for Fatally Shooting Unarmed Man

By Jocelyn Lopez 

SAN DIEGO, CA – The U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) announced Friday a two-count indictment charging San Diego’s former Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Russell for shooting an unarmed man to death.

The DOJ states the indictment comes after Russell deprived Nicholas Bils “of his right to be free from officers using excessive force and with discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.”

If convicted, Russell faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

After escaping from the California Parks vehicle, Bils was running away from law enforcement officers, reports the DOJ. Although Bils was unarmed, Russell shot Bils five times without issuing a warning, shooting him in the back and causing his death, stated the DOJ.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that none of the three law enforcement officers in the area fired a shot or drew a weapon, and the prosecution of Russell comes after a 2020 California law “raised the standards for when police can use deadly force from ‘reasonable’ to ‘necessary.’”

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports Russell pleaded guilty in 2022 to state voluntary manslaughter, receiving three years probation and the judge, Francis Devaney, ordered a three-year suspended sentence as a condition of probation, stating, Russell was “so young, untrained, inexperienced, no criminal background, and no malicious intent in what you did.”

The Tribune reported, “As the (state) hearing ended, but with the judge still on the bench, Bils’ cousin Amber Barnett said one word loudly: ‘Shame,’” and outside the courtroom added, “‘The judge made a shameful decision. It sends a message to law enforcement that you can shoot someone in the back and maybe — maybe — get jail for a year.’”

Bils’ mother, Kathleen Bils, sued Russell and the county in federal court, alleging excessive force and wrongful death, noted the Tribune, writing, “The county agreed to pay $8.1 million to settle the case in the summer of 2022, with Kathleen Bils receiving $5.1 million and Bils’ three brothers receiving $1 million each.”

“Both the civil case and the more recent indictment hinge on the Fourth Amendment, which provides anyone in the United States the constitutional right to be free from excessive force by law enforcement officials…U.S. Customs and Border Protection (officers) have faced similar charges in non-fatal use-of-force cases, as have officers elsewhere involved in the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.”

About The Author

Jocelyn Lopez is a fourth year student at the University of California, Davis studying International Relations with a minor in Tech Management. As an intern with the Davis Vanguard. Jocelyn hopes to expand her knowledge on the criminal justice system and interested in public service. Through her internship she hopes to take the knowledge and apply it to future careers whether it is pursuing a career in law school or following a different path. Jocelyn likes to read, travel, cook and watch all genres of movies.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for