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News / Clark County News

Murder trial begins in death of Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota

Both sides describe event as a nightmare in opening statements

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: May 6, 2024, 7:08pm
3 Photos
Defense attorneys Ed Dunkerly, from left, and Michele Michalek meet with defendant Julio Segura before opening statements Monday morning in his murder trial for the 2022 death of Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota at the Clark County Courthouse.
Defense attorneys Ed Dunkerly, from left, and Michele Michalek meet with defendant Julio Segura before opening statements Monday morning in his murder trial for the 2022 death of Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota at the Clark County Courthouse. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Opening statements began Monday in the murder trial of a Yakima man accused in the 2022 death of off-duty Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota.

Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense described the events of that night as a nightmare — but for different reasons.

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

Opening statements began Monday morning after a 12-person jury with four alternates was impaneled last week. The trial is slated to last three weeks.

Prosecutor Tony Golik said that if it weren’t for Segura’s actions leading up to the shooting — including allegedly stealing a car from a Yakima dealership, robbing an Orchards gas station, leading law enforcement on a high-speed chase and running from the disabled car to Sahota’s door — the officer’s death never would’ve happened.

“The defendant’s intentional actions in this case are a cause of Donald Sahota’s death, and the defendant is guilty of murder,” Golik said.

Golik said Sahota’s death was a nightmare for Clark County sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Feller, who mistakenly shot Sahota outside of his Battle Ground house.

“Deputy Feller was put in a horrible, horrible position because of the defendant’s actions,” Golik said. “And he had to make a split-second decision. He made a decision that will no doubt haunt him for the rest of his life.”

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Defense attorney Ed Dunkerly said Segura got swept up in his dream for a better life, a dream that turned to a nightmare when law enforcement began chasing him in connection with the armed robbery, which led him to Sahota’s house.

“About 225 households (belonging to Vancouver police officers) out of tens of thousands of households in Clark County, and this happens to be one house occupied by off-duty Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota,” Dunkerly said.

Dunkerly pointed to a variety of factors that he said showed Feller was the cause of Sahota’s death, not Segura. He said Feller made eye contact with an injured Sahota as Sahota picked up his discarded gun and ran back to the front door of his house, where Segura had just gone inside.

Dunkerly noted Sahota was not pointing the gun at anyone. He said Feller’s dream was to be a hero — “shooting first, asking questions later.”

“And that’s not what we pay our officers to do,” Dunkerly said.

Dunkerly stood behind Segura and gripped the back of his seat while he described to the jury the time Segura spent growing up in foster care.

“He dreamed of a better life,” Dunkerly said. “One of those dreams was a nice late-model car.”

Dunkerly said Segura’s dream got a hold of him while he was test driving a Mercedes-Benz and he never returned the car to the dealership.

From there, he decided to rob the gas station for money to eat, and, when law enforcement from multiple agencies began chasing him, he sped away from them. Dunkerly said he fled from police because he wanted to get back to his family.

The prosecutor described the stab wounds Segura inflicted on Sahota with a roughly 1-foot-long knife during a struggle in Sahota’s driveway. Sahota’s family became emotional in the courtroom’s gallery when hearing of his injuries.

Dunkerly said Segura stabbed Sahota because the officer had him in a chokehold while waiting for other officers to arrive, and Segura couldn’t breathe.

The attorneys said medical experts will testify that Sahota died primarily from his gunshot wounds. But, they noted, the stab wounds Segura inflicted were also serious and would’ve required immediate medical attention.

Golik promised jury members they’d see a large amount of video during the course of the trial, from surveillance video of the gas station robbery, to drone footage of Segura running from the disabled car, to video of Segura’s interview with investigators after Sahota’s death.

Trial resumed in the afternoon with state’s witnesses, including the manager of the Yakima car dealership and the gas station clerk Segura allegedly robbed, along with law enforcement officers involved in the chase.

More state’s witnesses are scheduled to testify Tuesday.