A former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a man he saw escape from a patrol car was sentenced on Monday to three years probation and a year in prison.
Aaron Russell, 25, pleaded guilty last month to intentional homicide in the shooting death of Nicholas Bils in May 2020.
Superior Court Judge Francis Devaney also ordered a three-year suspended sentence, which means that if Russell violates the terms of probation, he could be sent to prison, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The prosecutor had requested a six-year sentence behind bars.
Russell’s year in custody could be served in the county jail, but can be served under a furlough program, if approved.
Bils’ mother, Kathleen Bils, walked out of the courtroom when she heard the judge’s ruling, KPBS-TV reported.
Outside of court, Bils’ cousin Amber Barnett called the sentence “shameful” and said it “sends the message to law enforcement that they can shoot someone in the back and maybe get a year in jail.”
Russell was a deputy with 18 months on the force when he saw Bils, 36, escape from a state park patrol car. He shot Bils in the back as he fled.
In his plea agreement, Russell admitted that he “unreasonably believes that I or anyone else is in imminent danger of being killed or suffering serious bodily harm”.
“In fact, but unreasonably, I believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against danger,” Russell said.
Kathleen Bils sued Russell and County in federal court, alleging excessive force and wrongful death.