Central jail in downtown San Diego
The central jail in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

Authorities Tuesday publicly identified a sheriff’s deputy and an assault suspect who were involved in a foot chase and shooting that fatally wounded the latter man last week near the San Diego Central Jail.

Aaron Russell, 23, an 18-month employee of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, shot 36-year-old Nicholas Peter Bils near the intersection of B and Front streets early Friday evening.

Bils, a San Diego resident, was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.

Bils, who had been arrested by rangers with the California Department of Parks and Recreation for allegedly assaulting one of the agency’s employees, was being transported to the downtown detention facility when he managed to escape shortly before 6 p.m., San Diego police Lt. Matt Dobbs said.

“It appears (he) was able to slip the handcuffs off of at least one of his wrists and was able to open the door to the (government) vehicle,” Dobbs said.

As Bils ran off to the north, Russell, who was walking to work with a fellow deputy, saw him and gave chase along with his colleague. Moments later, Russell fired at least one round, mortally wounding the fleeing suspect.

Exactly what prompted the deputy to open fire remains unclear.

Since the shooting occurred in the city of San Diego, the SDPD Homicide Unit was assigned to head the investigation into the circumstances that led to it.

When the probe is complete, police detectives will forward their findings to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, which will rule on whether the use of deadly force was justified.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office will also monitor the investigation, as is standard protocol,” Dobbs said.

— City News Service