press conference

Family Discusses Man Fatally Shot by Former Sheriff's Deputy

The man's mother said her son was a paranoid schizophrenic who feared police officers

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The family of a man who authorities say was fatally shot by a former San Diego County Sheriff's Department deputy are awaiting what they call "justice" as litigation against the deputy began Tuesday at his arraignment.

Kathleen Bils, a primary education teacher, said the past few weeks have been agonizing for her family.

"Well, my son Nicky is dead," she said via Zoom during a press conference. "He should be alive and be here with us but he’s dead and my heart cries out that this is not right."

Nicholas Bils, 36, was killed early May after he escaped custody outside the downtown jail. While running away from authorities, Bils was shot four times by former sheriff’s deputy Aaron Russell, who now faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted of the murder charge he’s facing, according to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. He pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder on Tuesday.

At the time of the shooting, Bils was playing fetch with his dog by chipping golf balls at the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park when rangers informed him he couldn’t have his dog off-leash and the park as closed due to coronavirus restrictions, according to the family's attorney, Eugene Iredale.

Detectives said Bils swung a golf putter near the rangers and ran away before the officials arrested him for assault with a deadly weapon. Rangers placed Bils in a truck with the windows partially rolled down and with that, he was able to eventually escape as they arrived at the county jail.

Bils’ mother Kathleen told NBC 7 an officer opened fire on her son as he ran away; one bullet struck his leg, another went through his left arm and into his chest, one hit his back and fourth grazed his flank.

"He fired five shots," Iredale said. "The fatal shot appears to have been the bullet that went through the back, and then the lung and then the heart of Nicholas Bilt."

“Why? Why is my son dead? He was mentally ill,” Kathleen Bils said. “It’s not his fault he doesn’t understand.”

Kathleen said Nicholas was diagnosed with schizophrenia and he feared police officers.

The man's mother expressed immense gratefulness to the District Attorney's Office for providing her family with answers. She said now, all she and her loved ones can do is wait for the courts and jury to decide the fate of Russell.

"He at least gets to have a jury decide for his life," Kathleen Bils said. "Nobody got to decide for Nicky, except for Russell."

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misspelled Nicholas and Kathleen's last name as Blis. They are Nicholas and Kathleen Bils.

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