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News / Clark County News

Judge declines request in Segura trial; attorneys sought to prove deputy to blame for Officer Sahota’s slaying

Clark County sheriff's deputy shot Vancouver police officer Sahota while chasing Segura

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: April 3, 2024, 6:38pm

A judge ruled Wednesday Julio Segura’s defense team can’t question witnesses in his upcoming murder trial about the specifics of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office’s 2020 fatal shooting of Kevin Peterson Jr.

The defense attorneys sought to point to differences in Deputy Jonathan Feller’s behavior since his involvement in Peterson’s shooting to convince a jury the deputy, not Segura, was responsible for the Jan. 29, 2022 slaying of off-duty Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota.

Segura, 22, of Yakima is charged in Clark County Superior Court with three counts of first-degree murder and one count each of second-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, first-degree attempted kidnapping, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle.

The defense attorneys told Judge Nancy Retsinas they don’t believe Feller acted inappropriately in Peterson’s shooting. But, they said since that shooting, Feller began using a personal weapon, instead of an agency-issued firearm. They also said he didn’t take the time to assess the scene at the Sahota residence before opening fire, as he said he did during Peterson’s shooting.

This, the attorneys claimed, lead to Feller mistakenly shooting Sahota instead of Segura, who law enforcement officers from multiple agencies had chased to Battle Ground in connection with a robbery investigation.

Segura is accused of stabbing Sahota three times during a struggle in Sahota’s driveway. Moments later, Feller arrived and mistakenly shot and killed Sahota, court records say.

Although the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office found Sahota died from gunshot wounds, an autopsy determined his stab wounds were life-threatening.

The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office previously said in a letter it does not intend to charge Feller in Sahota’s death, despite an outside panel of prosecutors failing to reach a consensus on the reasonableness of Feller’s decision to fire his weapon.

Prosecutors argued the relevance of Feller’s involvement in the Peterson shooting, and they disagreed with the defense’s characterization that Feller wanted to be a hero. The prosecutors said they would need to litigate the entire Peterson shooting — which an outside prosecutor’s office deemed was justified — as part of Segura’s trial, if the defense team went down that road.

Retsinas ruled the attorneys can’t ask Feller on the stand about the specifics of Peterson’s shooting, but they could ask more vaguely about Feller’s involvement in prior shootings.

“The facts of the Kevin Peterson investigation itself and its conclusion shall be excluded on the basis of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues and misleading the jury. There will be no mention of the name Kevin Peterson, or any investigation that ensued,” Retsinas said. “No mention of the location or the specific timing of this shooting. No mention as to whether anybody was shot, harmed, lived or died.”

Prior to her ruling on the questioning, the judge called Segura’s case ready for trial to begin May 6, with jury selection beginning May 1.

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Peterson’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the county, Feller and others.

Three deputies fatally shot Peterson, 21, as he ran, armed with a handgun, from the scene of a planned illicit sale of 50 Xanax pills in Hazel Dell. The shooting occurred shortly before 6 p.m. in the parking lot of a shuttered U.S. Bank branch, 6829 N.E. Highway 99, adjacent to the Quality Inn where the drug sale was set to take place.

The lawsuit contends Peterson did not threaten nor point the gun at pursuing deputies, and the object seen in his hand was actually a cellphone.

In October, a judge granted a defense motion to stay the proceedings while the suit’s federal claims are appealed.