For­mer San Diego sher­iff deputy pleads not guilty to mur­der

Antelope Valley Press - - NEWS -

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A for­mer San Diego County sher­iff’s deputy pleaded not guilty Tues­day to fa­tally shoot­ing an un­armed de­tainee who fled on foot out­side a jail.

Aaron Rus­sell, 23, had been on the force for 18 months and re­signed days af­ter the May 1 death of Ni­cholas Bils.

Rus­sell fired five times as Bils, 36, was run­ning away, strik­ing him in the back, arm and thigh, said Stephen Mar­quardt, a deputy district at­tor­ney.

Eu­gene Iredale, a lawyer for the Bils fam­ily, said the vic­tim was di­ag­nosed with schizophre­nia. He was al­legedly shoot­ing golf balls at Old Town San Diego State Park when it was closed be­cause of the Coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Bils al­legedly bran­dished a golf club at a ranger but never struck any­one, said Iredale, who plans to sue on be­half of the fam­ily.

Bils reached out the win­dow of the sher­iff’s ve­hi­cle as it ap­proached the down­town jail, opened the door and tired to es­cape.

Rus­sell’s at­tor­ney, Richard Pinckard, said he was dis­ap­pointed but not sur­prised by District At­tor­ney Sum­mer Stephan’s de­ci­sion to file sec­ond-de­gree mur­der charges Mon­day. Rus­sell, who faces up to 15 years in prison if con­victed, had bail set at $500,000.

It is very rare for a Cal­i­for­nia law en­force­ment of­fi­cer to be charged with us­ing deadly force while on duty. But a new state law al­lows the use of deadly force only when “nec­es­sary,” when an of­fi­cer’s life or the life of oth­ers is in im­mi­nent dan­ger or when there is no al­ter­na­tive to deesca­lat­ing the sit­u­a­tion

“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,” Stephan said Mon­day. “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 the district at­tor­ney’s of­fice said it wasn’t re­leas­ing the footage be­cause it could jeop­ar­dize the de­fen­dant’s right to a fair trial.

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