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Video released of deputy-involved shooting at downtown San Diego jail

The escapee was fatally shot as he ran away from the deputy in May 2020.

SAN DIEGO — Video has been released of a deputy-involved shooting, where an unarmed man was shot and killed in 2020 while running away from the downtown jail.

The 23-year-old deputy, Aaron Russell, resigned in the wake of the shooting and is now is facing a charge of second-degree murder. Russell was in full uniform when he arrived on foot to work at the downtown jail on May 1. Right in front of him, a man escaped from the back seat of a state park ranger's patrol car.

Nicholas Bils, 36, had slipped one hand out of his handcuffs. He slammed a door on another ranger and ran away from the jail.

Deputy Russell can be seen on the video pulling his pistol and shooting multiple rounds, hitting Bils at least four times and killing him.

“Mr. Russell removed his handgun from his side holster, pointed his firearm at Mr. Bils as he ran northbound,” testified Sgt. Andrew Tafoya, an investigating officer with the San Diego Police Department.

Credit: KFMB

Video of the shooting was shown publicly for the first time Monday, Jan. 25., during Russell’s preliminary hearing.

Attorneys representing the former deputy made it clear they intend to argue the shooting was justified.

At the top of the video, a pair of red shoes can be seen.  Testimony indicated they belong to a nurse, who was walking on a sidewalk nearby the location of the shooting.

“Yes, I believe that was a person walking by. I don’t recall the name,” testified Sgt. Tafoya.

During cross-examination of the officer, the defense team implied the nurse could have been in danger, and the handcuff on Bils’ wrist might have been mistaken for a weapon.

“Were you able to determine during the course of your investigation whether or not the cuff that Mr. Bils had removed from his left wrist was hanging down loose or whether he had gripped it in his hand to keep it from dangling?” asked defense attorney Rick Pinckard.

“I don't know how he was holding it. I did not come to that conclusion,” replied Tafoya.

There was an indication in court that more surveillance cameras captured the shooting on video, but it is unclear when that video evidence will be shown.

Testimony in the preliminary hearing will continue Tuesday.  When the hearing is over, the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

RELATED: Deputy-involved shooting case goes to San Diego DA’s office

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