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

NAACP has called for transparency and the release of surveillance video.

SAN DIEGO — The investigation into a shooting involving a sheriff's deputy – where a mentally ill man was killed near the downtown jail – has been handed over to the San Diego County District Attorney’s office.

Video of the incident has not been released almost two months after the fatal shooting on May 1.

Now, the local chapter of the NAACP is calling for transparency and the filing of criminal charges against the deputy.

The shooting victim’s brother, Ben Bils, said he is still waiting for justice in the killing of his younger brother, Nicholas Bills.

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Ben Bils told News 8 in May that his 36-year-old brother suffered from mental illness and had a history of trying to run away from police.

“Nikki was a very sweet person. He loved his family and he had a lot of love for everything. He was just scared,” Ben Bils said.

“I got back from a crematorium [...] and seeing his body and the screams that my mom let out - I will never forget for the rest of my life," he said. "They're going to haunt me until the day I die."

State Park rangers arrested Nicholas Bils on May 1 in a parking lot at Old Town San Diego. The rangers said Bils assaulted them with a golf club and tried to run away.

“When they got to the jail, he managed to free one of his hands from the handcuff, and then he reached out the window and opened the door and let himself out,” said Ben Bils.

Police said Bils took off running again, this time down the street near the jail.

Two off-duty deputies -- on their way to the jail -- confronted Bils and one of them pulled his gun and opened fire.

“I don't know how many shots they missed with, but they got him three times, one of those was square in the back,” said the victim’s brother.

Days after the shooting, the deputy who fired the fatal shots, Aaron Russell, resigned from the sheriff’s department. He had been on the force for a year and a half.

San Diego's NAACP President Francine Maxwell said she has questions about why the young deputy fired his weapon, and whether Bils was running away at the time.

“We still want to see charges brought and we want to see justice served for this family,” Maxwell said.

“Many things in a de-escalation could have occurred," she said. "Shooting should have been a last resort and so we're extremely concerned on the training that [had] taken place." 

The sheriff's department has declined to release surveillance video of the incident, citing an ongoing investigation, which has now been turned over to the DA for possible criminal charges.

“I’m sure when we see video evidence of this, it's going to look like he was running away, trying to get away from everybody," said Ben Bils. "And, given the fact that he was shot in the back, he was getting away from somebody." 

Neighbors told News 8 that Russell, the former deputy involved in the shooting, recently moved out of his apartment in Santee.

The San Diego Police Department is the agency investigating the case because it happened in downtown San Diego. SDPD declined to comment on the investigation. 

The DA is expected to release surveillance video of the incident and its decision on possible charges in the coming weeks.