VANCOUVER, Wash. — The Vancouver Police Department held a procession Tuesday morning for fallen officer Donald Sahota, who was mistakenly shot by a Clark County deputy during a struggle with a robbery suspect on Jan. 29.
The procession travelled from Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver to ilani casino, where a memorial service was held Tuesday afternoon. ilani's ballroom can host about 2,000 people.
"And I suspect we'll get close to that, and if not, have standing room only," said Brian Johnston, executive director of Behind the Badge Foundation, on Monday. The Washington-based nonprofit helped organize Tuesday's events.
"It's a hurting community. Many people here are feeling it," said Joanita Munoz, a volunteer of 13 years at Vancouver Police Department, on Monday.
She and her husband, Lou, were planning to hand out programs at the memorial.
"It's a privilege to be able to participate," Munoz said. "This is a big family thing. [Police] are here to protect us and take care of us, and we have to do our best to protect and take care of them."
The procession was expected to have as many as 400 emergency vehicles from police and other first responder agencies from around the region, police said.
It began around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in front of Crossroads Community Church on Northeast 78th Street, proceeded to Interstate 205 via Andresen Road and Padden Parkway, then merged onto Interstate 5.
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Sahota's motorcade was scheduled to join the procession at the 179th Street interchange. An honorary flyover was scheduled to happen at the same time, police said, sometime between 11:05 and 11:25 a.m.
Members of the public were allowed to congregate and view the procession along the non-freeway portions of the route.
"These are local heroes really, what they do everyday and what's been happening the last couple of years is really tragic, how they're being treated and stuff — we're just here to show support," said Thomas Rismoen, who watched the procession from an overpass in Ridgefield.
"Everyone is honking, I almost cried and got emotional just seeing everyone pour out their hearts and support us," said Vancouver resident Rebekah McConnell, who also watched from the bridge.
Jan. 29 shooting
Sahota, 52, was off-duty and at home in Battle Ground on the evening of Jan. 29 when he got caught up in the pursuit of a robbery suspect.
The suspect, later identified as Julio Cesar Segura, allegedly robbed a convenience store in Orchards and then drove north on I-205 with Clark County Sheriff's deputies in pursuit. Police used spike strips to stop Segura's car after he exited the freeway near Battle Ground, and he fled on foot.
A short time later, Sahota's wife called 911 to report that a stranger was pounding on the door of their home, saying that he had been involved in a crash and needed help, and Sahota had gone out to try to detain the suspect.
Sahota and Segura engaged in a struggle in the driveway, according to a police probable cause affidavit, during which Sahota's pistol fell to the ground. Segura later told police he had stabbed Sahota multiple times.
When Clark County deputies began to arrive at the scene, Segura broke away and fled into the house. Sahota stood up, retrieved his pistol and pursued him, at which point one of the Clark County deputies fired multiple rounds and hit him.
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Sahota collapsed on the front porch, according to police, who realized he was a resident rather than the suspect when Segura exited the house and surrendered. An autopsy later confirmed that Sahota died from gunshot wounds.
Segura was arrested on charges of attempted murder, robbery, burglary, assault, possession of a stolen vehicle and attempting to elude police. He is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 11 for an arraignment.