A former San Diego sheriff’s deputy has been charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting a subject who was running away from a park ranger’s vehicle. The subject was identified as Nicholas Bils, age 36. Bils was arrested by park rangers at the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park after he and park rangers got into a dispute. Once inside the park ranger’s vehicle, Bils was able to slip out of his handcuffs, exit the vehicle, and try to flee the vicinity.
Aaron Russel, age 23, was the San Diego County sheriff’s deputy who spotted Bils running. Russel began to chase Bils down the street in front of a San Diego courthouse. During the chase, Russel fired four shots at Nicholas Bils, killing him.
Kathleen Bils, the mother of Nicholas Bils, said that the confrontation with the park rangers took place because the rangers were trying to tell her son that the park was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Kathleen indicated that her son was suffering from a major fear of law enforcement and was also a paranoid schizophrenic. According to Kathleen, Nicholas had a long history of mental health issues. She explained that the park rangers must have scared her son and that he reacted the way that he did because he did not understand what they were saying. According to reports, Nicholas began swinging a golf club at the rangers and then tried to run from them. The rangers eventually caught up with Nicholas, and when they did they arrested him and placed him in their vehicle. Nicholas was able to escape out of a window that was rolled down at the time of his arrest.
How is Lethal Force by a Police Officer Treated in California?
In 2019, Governor Gain Newsom signed updated legislation that was introduced by California Assemblywoman Shirley Weber that described new rules on when law enforcement can legally use lethal force in the line of duty. The law states that an officer can only use lethal force when necessary. Before this law was signed, the guidelines on lethal force said it could be used if any reasonable officer would have done the same thing given the circumstances. The legislation made California one of the most strict states in the nation when it comes to law enforcement’s ability to use lethal force.