Resignation of Deputy is Not Enough

May 8, 2020

On Monday, we noted with sorrow the shooting of a detainee by Sheriff’s Deputies who were arriving at work as the detainee had escaped during a transfer from Park Police to the jail.  At the time, we expressed our doubts as to the need for the shooting, and said we would be watching closely.  Further details bear out our suspicions.

According to press accounts, the victim, Nicholas Bils, suffered from mental illness.  Evidently, the deputies’ bodycams were not turned on, which seems convenient for the Sheriff. The “deadly weapon” he was arrested over was a golf club, which was not in his possession while he was fleeing from custody.  He was not an immediate danger to human life, and lethal force should not have been used.

According to press accounts, the deputy who shot him was 23 years old and had been a deputy for all of 18 months.  He has since resigned from the Sheriff’s department.

We understand that three shots lodged in Mr Bils’ body, but the fourth only grazed him.  We wonder where that fourth bullet would have ended up had COVID-19 not meant the streets were deserted?  What bystander might now be dead or dying due to this unnecessary and ill-advised shooting?

The deputy’s resignation does not end the matter.

We DEMAND that the San Diego Police Department conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation into this shooting.

We DEMAND that District Attorney Summer Stephan conduct a thorough review to see if criminal charges should be filed against the murderer of Mr Bils.

We DEMAND that Attorney General Becerra open an immediate investigation into Sheriff Gore’s department and practices.  This investigation should not be limited to this particular shooting; this shooting is only one of a long list of in-custody deaths.  Specifically, we ask AG Becearra to investigate:

  • Recruitment and training of Sheriff’s Deputies
  • Use of force policies, training, and accountability in the Sheriff’s department
  • In-custody deaths of persons in the Sheriff’s system, including in the jails
  • Most specifically, a review of the Sheriff’s suicide protocols, as many in-custody deaths are being (conveniently) attributed to suicide.

Some have wondered why we, the NAACP, are interested in the death of a white man.  As has been said so many times, none of us are free until all of us are free.  The NAACP is a racially diverse organization that is dedicated to securing the civil and human rights of all persons, regardless of their race.  Every death caused by our out-of-control “law enforcement” personnel is of grave concern to the NAACP and its members.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Update: read the response from Attorney General Becerra