A Clark County deputy who shot and killed an off-duty Vancouver Police officer last year won’t face criminal charges, according to the Clark County prosecutor.
When he shot a person whom he believed to be an armed robbery suspect, Deputy Jon Feller acted in “good faith,” a relatively new legal standard in Washington for deciding whether police have used deadly force lawfully.
“The result of Deputy Feller’s use of deadly force in this case was incredibly tragic,” Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik wrote in a Jan. 11 memo clearing him of criminal charges. “However, the facts support a finding that Deputy Feller made a mistake that a reasonable officer could have made in the same situation.”
Feller’s shooting, which killed Vancouver Police Department officer Donald Sahota, happened during the pursuit of an alleged armed robbery suspect in Clark County.
On Jan. 29, 2021, Julio Cesar Segura allegedly used a fake gun to rob a convenience store outside of Vancouver. He fled north and into rural parts of the county, ultimately winding up in a heavily wooded neighborhood and at Sahota’s doorstep.
Segura, records show, knocked on Sahota’s door. Sahota, 52, eventually attempted to apprehend Segura. The two fought in the front yard and Sahota lost possession of a handgun. Segura then allegedly stabbed the off-duty officer three times.
Segura, as seen in aerial footage captured by a drone, then attempted to run inside the house. Officers said Sahota retrieved the handgun and ran in the same direction. Meanwhile, Feller and other responding officers arrived at the scene.
Feller, who later told investigators he believed Sahota was the armed robbery suspect, opened fire with a department-issued rifle.
A Clark County medical examiner concluded that gunfire killed Sahota. Sahota had spent 28 years in law enforcement.
The “good faith” standard applied by Golik considers whether a “similarly situated reasonable officer would have believed that the use of deadly force was necessary.” That standard became law after voters in 2018 passed a law overhauling state laws on police use of force.
Two other officers were in similar positions as Feller. One Battle Ground police officer told investigators that he, too, thought Feller shot the suspect. Another said he aimed his rifle at Sahota, though he did not fire.
Golik’s finding comes more than a week after a panel of prosecutors said it was “unable to reach a consensus” about whether to recommend Feller face charges. The five prosecutors said some of them believed Feller should have taken the time to identify his target. Others said Feller did not act in an “unreasonable” way.
The 11-page letter did not identify which prosecutors arrived at which legal conclusions. The panel was comprised of elected prosecutors from Pend Oreille, Lewis, Island, Garfield and Clalam counties.
In his letter, Golik said he would not share any more details. He cited the ongoing criminal case centered on Segura. Segura is facing a slew of charges, including first-degree murder.