VANCOUVER, Wash. — In an emotional news conference Thursday, Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain thanked community members and the local law enforcement community for their support after the death of Officer Donald Sahota.
"I am truly heartbroken," McElvain said.
A Clark County deputy shot and killed Sahota in an apparent case of mistaken identity Saturday night. A suspect, later identified as Julio Segura, is accused of robbing a convenience store in the Orchards area before fleeing in a stolen vehicle. The suspect eventually ditched the vehicle in the Battle Ground area and ran away on foot.
According to investigators, Segura pounded on the door of Sahota's home. Sahota identified himself as an off-duty police officer and a struggle ensued. Shortly after deputies responded to the scene, Deputy Jonathan Feller fired several rounds from a rifle and killed Sahota. Segura then surrendered and was taken into custody.
"This has been a devastating blow first and foremost to Officer Sahota's family as well as the Vancouver Police Department family," McElvain said. "Don's family is in my thoughts and prayers."
Officer Sahota's death is the first line-of-duty death for Vancouver Police since its inception in 1883. Though he was off-duty at the time, Sahota's death will be considered a line-of-duty death because he was performing actions as a police officer while trying to subdue the suspect.
"The circumstances surrounding the death of Officer Sahota has been very painful for our department and the law enforcement community in our area," McElvain said.
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During the news conference, the chief read statements from Sahota's family and mother.
“While police officers are heroes, they are also human. Being a law enforcement family, we understand that this is one of the hardest jobs in the world, often involving split second decisions that mean life or death. We would like everyone to know that we hold no ill feelings toward Clark County Sheriff's Office or deputy involved in this tragedy and hope others can show them grace as well. The fact remains that one person is ultimately responsible for the death of Officer Sahota: the suspect who is in custody. If that individual hadn't made poor decision after poor decision and ended up inside our home, we would not be where we are now," a statement from Sahota's family read.
"Don was really just a great man. Honest, kind, loved to help people. He was a great son, wonderful father and husband. He loved his job and loved serving his community," Sahota's mother wrote.
Watch: Chief McElvain reads statements from Officer Sahota's family:
A memorial service will be held at Ilani Casino in Ridgefield at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8.
A police motorcade carried Officer Sahota's body through Vancouver on Thursday.
Sahota worked with Vancouver Police for eight years and previously worked with the Gresham and Port of Portland police departments. In Vancouver, Sahota assisted with training, and touched the lives of nearly every officer in the department, the chief said.
"He has made a tremendous impact on each of them," McElvain said. "He will be sorely missed."
McElvain also thanked Behind the Badge, a Washington-based nonprofit that assists law enforcement agencies after line-of-duty deaths.
"Despite all that our region's law enforcement community is going through, as we continue to process Officer Sahota's death, the dedication and commitment of the men and women in law enforcement to prioritize our missions to protect the safety of our residents has not wavered," he said.
Those wishing to show support can leave cards or flowers outside Vancouver Police headquarters at 605 E Evergreen Boulevard. Cards mailed to VPD will be given to the Sahota family.
A bank account has been set up to assist the Sahota family. Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so at any Chase Bank branch and donate to the Officer Sahota Memorial Fund.