Ex-San Diego deputy sentenced in killing of fleeing man

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Posted at 9:53 AM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 10:53:30-05

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a man he saw escape from a patrol car was sentenced Monday to three years of probation and a year in jail.

Aaron Russell, 25, pleaded guilty last month to voluntary manslaughter in the May 2020 shooting death of Nicholas Bils.

Superior Court Judge Francis Devaney also ordered a three-year suspended sentence, meaning that if Russell were to violate the terms of probation, he could be sent to prison, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The prosecutor had sought a six-year term behind bars.

Russell’s one year of custody could be served in county jail, but may be served in a work furlough program, if he is approved.

Bils’ mother, Kathleen Bils, walked out of the courtroom when she heard the judge’s ruling, KPBS-TV reported.

Outside court, Bils’ cousin Amber Barnett called the sentence “shameful” and said it “sends the message to law enforcement officers that they can shoot someone in the back and maybe get a year in jail.”

Russell was a deputy with 18 months on the force when he saw Bils, 36, escape from a State Parks patrol car. He shot Bils in the back as he was running away.

In his plea agreement, Russell admitted he “unreasonably believed that I or someone else was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury.”

“I actually, but unreasonably believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against the danger,” Russell said.

Kathleen Bils has sued Russell and the county in federal court, alleging excessive force and wrongful death.