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News / Clark County News

Clark County sheriff’s deputy who mistakenly shot Vancouver Officer Donald Sahota gives emotional testimony

Jonathan Feller says he believed officer was robbery suspect

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: May 8, 2024, 7:13pm
4 Photos
Clark County sheriff&rsquo;s Deputy Jonathan Feller testifies on the witness stand Wednesday during the murder trial of Julio Segura at the Clark County Courthouse. Segura is facing a host of charges including multiple counts of murder, kidnapping, burglary, robbery and others, in the death of off-duty Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota in January 2022. Feller mistakenly fatally shot Sahota when he arrived to the scene of a struggle between Segura and Sahota.
Clark County sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Feller testifies on the witness stand Wednesday during the murder trial of Julio Segura at the Clark County Courthouse. Segura is facing a host of charges including multiple counts of murder, kidnapping, burglary, robbery and others, in the death of off-duty Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota in January 2022. Feller mistakenly fatally shot Sahota when he arrived to the scene of a struggle between Segura and Sahota. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Clark County sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Feller choked up as he recalled for a jury Wednesday the moment he realized the man he’d shot on the night of Jan. 29, 2022, was a fellow law enforcement officer — off-duty Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota.

Feller took the stand on the third day of Julio Segura’s murder trial in Clark County Superior Court.

Segura, 22, of Yakima is accused of stabbing Sahota multiple times, moments before Feller’s friendly fire. Although the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office found Sahota died from the gunshot wounds, an autopsy determined his stab wounds were life-threatening. (The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office previously said it does not intend to charge Feller in Sahota’s death.)

Prosecutors argue Segura’s actions caused Sahota’s death. He is charged 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.

Feller looked down and spoke softly as he recounted that Sahota’s wife ran out of the couple’s garage yelling about her husband.

“Someone said the suspect was in the house and that person I’d shot was the law enforcement officer,” Feller said.

Prior to that revelation, Feller said he had no question in his mind the person he shot on the Sahotas’ porch was the robbery suspect, Segura.

“The realization of what had happened was a lot to process,” he said.

Feller said when he arrived at the Battle Ground house, he made eye contact with the man, whom he later learned was Sahota, as Sahota picked up his gun from where it had fallen during a struggle with Segura in the driveway. Feller said he saw the man run to the porch and try to force his way inside the home.

He said he commanded the man to stop, but the man didn’t. Feller said he feared for the people inside.

“At that time, I believed that person was an armed suspect, someone who had committed a robbery a short time ago with a firearm,” Feller said of his decision to shoot. “That they had been in a struggle with a law enforcement officer and that if they made it through that door that the people behind that door had a very good chance of being gravely harmed or killed.”

After the shooting, Feller said it was difficult for him to remember the specifics of what happened next.

“All I remember is being in my car. Apparently, someone moved me from my car to another car,” Feller said. “Someone asked me if I needed to call my wife. Apparently, I did that, but I don’t remember the conversation.”

Segura’s defense attorney questioned Feller about the multiple suspect descriptions that had been broadcast over police radios throughout the night and whether Sahota looked similar. The attorney pressed Feller on not taking the time to be sure.

“At the time, in the dark, trying to process everything, he matched the description I was last given,” Feller said.

He said it was a fast-paced and evolving situation.

“If I hadn’t, and those people were killed, people would’ve asked me why I didn’t stop the threat,” he said of his decision to shoot.

Before Feller took the stand, Ridgefield police Officer Nic Siem testified about what he saw leading up to the shooting. Siem said he did not see the gun in Sahota’s hand, but if he did, he would’ve fired his gun, as well. He also said he believed the man on the porch was the robbery suspect.

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Segura’s defense attorney pointed Siem to a previous interview in which Siem said he was surprised when he heard the shots fired.

Another then-Ridgefield police officer, Alex Martinez, testified after Feller that he, too, thought the person on the porch was the robbery suspect when Feller opened fire. Martinez also became choked up as he described the moment Sahota’s wife alerted them to the fact the person Feller shot was her husband.

He said he recalled hearing Feller say “Oh (expletive), oh (expletive).”

Trial is scheduled to continue Thursday with more state’s witnesses.

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