Nicholas Bils

San Diego County, Family of Escaped Inmate Shot by Deputy Reach $8.1M Settlement

Aaron Russell was one of three officers at the incident but was the only one who drew his firearm on the fleeing detainee, prosecutors noted

Brooke Martell

The family of Nicholas Bils, a detainee who was shot by a San Diego County sheriff's deputy while fleeing outside the downtown San Diego jail in 2020, was awarded an $8.1 million settlement on June 20, according to court documents.

San Diego County and Bils' family agreed to settle for $5.1 million toward Bils' mother Kathleen and $1 million to each of his three brothers, according to the court docket.

"There is not a price that ever can be put on the human life ever," Kathleen Bils told NBC 7. "The only reason for the lawsuit was that horrible pain that I suffered myself. I do not want anyone to suffer like that."

Aaron Russell has appeared in court for his sentencing regarding killing the 36-year-old Bils, whom Russel had shot multiple times in the back while he ran from authorities unarmed on May 1, 2020. Russell has completed his local sentence and was released Tuesday, according to the sheriff's department.

Bils had been throwing balls with his off-leash dog at Old Town State Park before brandishing a golf club at a ranger and running away. Rangers arrested Bils on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and for resisting arrest.

Russell had worked with the sheriff's department for 18 months before resigning shortly after the shooting and was charged with second-degree murder. He pleaded guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge in January of 2022.

Bils was being taken to the downtown detention facility when he was able to slip one hand out of his handcuffs, opened the car door by reaching a hand out of the window, and ran from a California State Parks officer's vehicle.

Russell was one of three officers at the event but was the only one who drew his firearm, prosecutors noted.

California state law dictates that officers can exert deadly force only if they believe it is necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious harm to themselves or others.

"I’m hoping that as a result of this that they will train their young officers, when they hand them a gun, they will also train them to value human life," Kathleen Bils said. "Life is not a video game, that is a human life walking in front of you and you do not pull your gun out and shoot somebody when they’re running away.”

NBC 7 reached out to the sheriff's department about the settlement on Tuesday afternoon but hasn't heard back.

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