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News / Clark County News

Mother mourns Jenoah Donald: ‘Never in a million years’ did she expect he would die at a Clark County deputy’s hands

By Noelle Crombie, oregonlive.com
Published: February 27, 2021, 6:48pm

The man fatally shot earlier this month by a Clark County sheriff’s deputy was remembered by his mother and older brother as a loving man who struggled to overcome the long-term and debilitating effects of a learning disorder.

Jenoah Donald, 30, died Feb. 12, eight days after his lawyer said he was shot once in the head by Deputy Sean Boyle. Deputies responding to a neighborhood call had stopped Donald in Hazel Dell for a bad taillight.

He was the second Black man fatally shot by Clark County deputies in Hazel Dell in the span of several months.

Donald’s mother Sue Zawacky, 57, and his older brother, Joshua, held a memorial service Friday that drew old friends and neighbors and both spoke to media Saturday.

“They say it takes a village,” Zawacky said, her older son at her side. “He had that village.”

She recalled how Donald was included on camping trips and outdoor adventures with other families when he was a kid and how when she wanted to find him, all she needed to do was drive around “the little neighborhood and find the pile of bicycles and we knew where the boys were.”

A single mom raising two sons, she said the trio shared a tight bond.

“It was just the three of us forever, you know?” she said.

She said her younger son loved to tinker and dream up mechanical projects, like the time he modified a bike using a motor scooter.

“He was wonderful,” Zawacky said.

Donald was diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in elementary school, his mother said. She said medication was a last resort — and one that didn’t work.

Later, he was diagnosed with two types of dyslexia.

“What he saw and heard were confusing and overwhelming,” she said.

She said he struggled to get his ideas out of his head. He fell through the cracks at schools in the Evergreen and Vancouver school districts.

By middle school, he was trailing behind his peers in academics. He continued to struggle in high school, she said.

The sense of failure was devastating and haunted him well into adulthood, his family said.

Zawacky said her son had a history of mental illness and substance abuse. She said she doesn’t know where he was living in the days before he was shot and wondered if he had been living in his car.

Boyle, a K-9 handler, fired twice at Donald twice during the Feb. 4 traffic stop. Investigators said Donald, Boyle and another deputy struggled inside Donald’s Mercedes sedan and Boyle fired when Donald ignored commands to let go of Boyle.

Investigators have said deputies responded to the area of Northwest Jordan Way because a neighbor called to complain about a “drug house” and reported two suspicious vehicles circling the area.

The shooting remains under investigation by Vancouver police.

Donald was shot less than a mile away from the Oct. 29 shooting of Kevin Peterson Jr., a 21-year-old Black man from Camas. Clark County deputies fatally shot Peterson as he ran from an undercover Xanax pill sting.

Zawacky said Donald was in sporadic contact with her and her older son in the final months of his life.

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She said he was a father himself, though she declined to discuss that aspect of his life.

She said as a boy her son was involved in a mentorship program that paired youths with police officers.

He maintained those connections into adulthood, making the circumstances surrounding his death even more painful, she said. She doesn’t know if Donald knew any of the officers who were involved in the traffic stop.

“I feel like someone that we trusted did this to our family,” she said.

“It wasn’t like he dropped out of the air,” she said. “He grew up in Clark County, in Battle Ground and Hazel Dell, Orchards. They knew him.”

She said she’s reeling from her son’s death.

“Never in a million years could you convince me that I would be sitting here having this type of conversation,” she said.