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Articles Tagged with police shootings

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.

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On Saturday, May 23, a woman allegedly brandished a knife and fought a police canine in the East Village. According to the San Diego Police Department, an officer shot and wounded her. The incident was reported at 9:50 p.m. in the 500 block of Park Boulevard. Witnesses called the police to report being hit by glass that the 26-year-old woman was throwing at them from an upper-level apartment.

 

Lt. Andra Brown of the SDPD said that upon arrival, broken glass and furniture were seen on the sidewalk. Officers attempted to talk with the woman, but this did not stop her from throwing items from her apartment window. Officers also noted that she was seen at her window with a knife.

 

The officers were able to get into her apartment where they found her barricaded in her bathroom. They continued to try and speak with her and used a variety of techniques to get her to come out of her bathroom including chemical agents and a police canine. The woman allegedly punched the canine and was threatening officers with the knife. In response, one officer shot the woman. Once she was down, they engaged in first aid and also called the paramedics.

 

None of the officers nor the canine sustained injuries from the incident. Homicide detectives investigated the incident because of the officer’s action to shoot the woman. They found the knife in the apartment. The officer that shot the woman was not named and the woman’s identity was not released. It is known that the officer was with the SDPD for over 11 years. Upon completion of the investigation, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office will review it and decide if criminal liability exists.

 

In addition to the homicide detectives’ investigation, Internal Affairs will also review the incident to see if any policy violations took place. The Shooting Review Board will look at the actions that the officer took to ensure they were proper and the Community Review Board on Police Practices will inspect the details of the incident. Last, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will be keeping watch over the investigation.

 

When can an Officer Shoot a Firearm?

 

Law enforcement officers are legally allowed to use deadly force if there is a reasonable belief that the incident they are involved in has an impending threat of lethal force coming their way. They can also use their firearm if they believe there is a potential for another officer or a member of the public to be the recipient of deadly force. 

 

The idea of what is “reasonable,” the details of the situation, and the information the officer has at the moment comes into play when evaluating a shooting incident. Under the penal code, officers are able to evaluate a situation and use the necessary force required to control it. Officers can use force when there is resistance or if they determine it is appropriate to try and stop themselves or another person from being hurt or killed.

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In the latest fatal civilian shooting to make national headlines, Charlotte, North Carolina police have shot a man named Keith Scott. Scott, like many victims of police shootings, was a black man whom his family claims was unarmed and not a threat. While protesters have filled the streets in the last few weeks, a new North Carolina law took effect on October 1 that will make it much harder for the public to see the footage of what happened to Keith Scott.  

The law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature runs counter to a nationwide trend in which some cities are actually trying to push transparency to earn back the public’s trust.  It would make any video footage by body cam and dashboard cam not a matter of public record. This would mean that only a judge can release it, and the footage would be exempt from public information act requests.

Calls for the release of the video have become the crux of the protests that ensued after the news of Scott’s death broke. The Charlotte police department refused to release the video to the public.  As of September 24, Keith Scott’s family released the first and only publicly available video which was recorded by cell phone by Scott’s wife.

All Police Body Camera Bills Have Failed in California This Year

For the second straight year, California’s legislature has failed to pass any major legislation regulating police body cams. Multiple bills, both to boost transparency and restrict access, have failed to garner support from lawmakers.

Police departments may adopt their own voluntary policies on police cams. The LAPD became the largest agency in the country to adopt body cameras with an announcement earlier this year, after four years of study and a pilot funded by donations. All 7,000 LAPD officers will wear body cams by the end of 2016, at the cost of $1.5 million.

Police Cam Footage Exempt

Standards for the release and storage of footage vary across departments across the country. As criminal evidence, police body cam footage is also currently exempt from California’s state law concerning public records. Currently, three Northern California counties have adopted guidelines for how long the video footage should be kept, but individual departments are not obligated to follow them. Attorneys who represent law enforcement recommend that departments keep their footage for two years.

In San Diego Specifically, public release of footage is prohibited unless approved by a Police chief or designee. Continue reading

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