Skip to main content
Press Release

Former San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy Charged with Civil Rights Violation for Fatally Shooting Unarmed Man

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A federal grand jury in San Diego returned a two-count indictment charging former San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Russell for fatally shooting Nicholas Bils on May 1, 2020.  Russell is charged with depriving Bils of his right to be free from officers using excessive force and with discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.  

The indictment alleges that Russell, while acting as a San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy, shot Bils after Bils had escaped from a California Parks vehicle and was running away from law enforcement officers who were chasing him. Without warning Bils or his fellow officers, Russell fired five shots at Bils, who was unarmed, as he ran away. One or more of the shots hit Bils in the back and caused his death. None of the other officers on scene fired a shot or drew a weapon.

If convicted, Russell faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath for the Southern District of California and Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI San Diego Field Office made the announcement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Seth Askins for the Southern District of California, Special Litigation Counsel Michael J. Songer and Trial Attorney Lia Rettammel of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.  

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated May 17, 2024

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 24-627