Family and friends painted Officer Donald Sahota as a man of many interests whenever he was off duty. He was a coach, a hiker, a diver, a pilot and handy with tools. Mostly, they said, he was a family man.
As daughter Kylie DeCunha described him at a memorial service Tuesday, the Vancouver Police Department officer was “a protector through and through.”
The family joined colleagues and others to honor the recently killed officer at a memorial service at the ilani Casino. The 52-year-old died while off-duty on Jan. 29 when an armed robbery suspect led a police chase to his front door.
The suspect, Julio Cesar Segura, wound up at the secluded private road near the city of Battle Ground, where Sahota and his family lived on a small farm. Prosecutors say Segura told Sahota he was having car trouble. The conversation devolved, and Sahota fought Segura in the driveway.
A responding Clark County Sheriff’s deputy, Jonathan Feller, mistakenly shot and killed Sahota. Segura faces an attempted murder charge for stabbing Sahota three times during the encounter, which remains under investigation.
The memorial Tuesday began with a procession. A cavalcade of police cruisers trailed a hearse en route to the Clark County casino. Casino officials estimated almost 2,000 people attended, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
At the memorial, speakers dwelled on Sahota’s life away from policing. He married his high school sweetheart and had two children. Robin Brown, who worked with Sahota in Vancouver police’s training unit, recalled how Sahota made clear he preferred his time spent with loved ones.
“He was always taking trips with his family or coming in late and leaving early,” Brown said. “We’d give him a hard time because he was gone so much, but that was because his priority was on being with his family and enjoying his life.”
When Sahota once heard about a buddy struggling to fix his car, he showed up without asking, climbed under and starting wrenching away at the defective part.
“He must have somehow sensed that I had a sore back or noticed the small scrapes on my knuckles,” said Vancouver Det. Shane Hall, who said he met Sahota at their kids’ soccer games before they became colleagues. “He just said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’m doing when I’m done.’”
In his law enforcement career, Sahota worked stints at the Gresham Police Department and the Port of Portland Police Department. He spent time on patrol and as a trainer.
When he joined the Vancouver Police Department in 2014, Sahota became the third person hired by then-newly hired police chief James McElvain. On Tuesday, McElvain, who plans to retire June 30, called Sahota a regular help to others.
“While the situations might not have always been scary, Don was always there helping,” McElvain said.
Sahota’s death and memorial marked the second such occasion in Clark County in less than a year. In July, Clark County Sheriff’s Office Det. Jeremy Brown died from a gunshot to the chest while investigating a firearms heist.
Speakers at Sahota’s memorial mostly left politics out of their speeches, even as officers across the state have taken issue with recently passed state laws intended to reduce use of force incidents. Inslee, the governor, attended but did not issue any remarks regarding Sahota’s memorial.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who did not attend and has recently sponsored legislation to bring more funding to local police agencies, did issue a statement through a spokesperson.
The congresswoman said communities “have a responsibility to support and invest in our community police who have been asked to take on increasing violent crime, with fewer resources and officers.”
One of the last speakers was Sahota’s son, Colton, who recalled spending nights in his father’s workshop. The younger Sahota said his father was an excellent handyman.
“I sincerely believe that, given enough time and proper equipment, he could fix anything,” Colton Sahota said. “I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn so much from the extraordinary man that my dad was.”
“Although, I wish I had more time with him to learn all of the amazing skills that he picked up on his convoluted journey through life,” he said.