RIDGEFIELD, Wash — Friends, family and colleagues from multiple police agencies held a memorial service Tuesday afternoon for fallen Vancouver police officer Donald Sahota, who was mistakenly shot by a Clark County deputy during a struggle with a robbery suspect on Jan. 29. Sahota was 52 years old.
The ceremony, held at ilani casino, was open to the public and came after a Tuesday morning procession in which a convoy of hundreds of police cars drove up from Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver, with crowds of onlookers lined up on city streets and freeway overpasses.
"These guys and gals come to work everyday to protect all of us and it's unfortunate this officer lost his life," said former Ridgefield Mayor Don Stose, who watched the procession from an overpass. "We're here in Ridgefield to support those folks who go to work everyday to make sure we're safe."
Speaking to an audience of hundreds at the service, Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain described Sahota as a person who was always eager to help others. Sahota's mother said he wanted to be a police officer since he was a child, McElvain added.
"Don will be greatly missed by those who knew him as a friend and as a brother in blue," he said.
Sahota began his 28-year law enforcement career in 1994 with the Gresham Police Department, McElvain said, then moved to the Port of Portland Police Department for about three years before joining the Vancouver Police Department in 2014.
Vancouver officer Robin Brown, who worked with Sahota and at one point partnered with him on patrol, recalled him as a friend and mentor and someone who was deeply committed to his family.
"He reminded me to spend time with family and hold on tightly to them, because family is more important than anything," she said. "I think that sort of sums up how Don lived."
Vancouver Police Detective Shane Hall said Sahota was a friendly and genuine person who inspired others to be better, and a dedicated parent to his three children.
James Reinhardt, who once coached a youth soccer team with Sahota as assistant coach, recalled him as a relentlessly positive leader who carefully adjusted his coaching approach best fit the needs of each team member.
"Don was a man you wanted to model your life after," he said.
Sahota's two adult children, Colton Sahota and Kylie DaCunha, took the stage together, thanking everyone for their support and expressing gratitude for the time with their father. Sahota’s son-in-law, Devin DaCunha, joined them and thanked Sahota for welcoming him into the family and for mentoring him in life and marriage.
“He was a protector through and through," Kylie DaCunha said. "For me and everyone else.”
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.
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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.
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.