Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik rules that Deputy John Feller acted in ‘good faith’ in the incident that led to Office Donald Sahota’s death
Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik has informed the Clark County Sheriff’s Office that Deputy John Feller should not be criminally charged in the death of Vancouver Police Department Officer Donald Sahota.
Golik informed Sheriff John Horch of his decision in a letter dated Wednesday (Jan. 11).
“The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has conducted a careful review of the use of deadly force by Deputy Feller in this case,’’ Golik wrote. “Our office reviewed the independent investigation of this case that was conducted by the Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team. Our office has also considered the independent review conducted by a team of outside prosecutors that was summarized in the December 27, 2022, report authored by the Honorable Jonathan Meyer, Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney.
“After a complete review of this case, the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has determined that pursuant to applicable Washington law, Deputy Feller should not be criminally charged. Washington law states that an officer shall not be held criminally liable for the use of deadly force when the use of deadly force is in ‘good faith.’’’
The letter stated that the legal standard is set forth in RCW 9A.16.040(4) which states:
A peace officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force in good faith, where “good faith” is an objective standard which shall consider all the facts, circumstances, and information known to the officer at the time to determine whether a similarly situated reasonable officer would have believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious physical harm to the officer or another individual.
In the letter, Golik added: “We find when the facts of this case are applied to the legal standard set forth above, it is likely a ‘similarly situated reasonable officer’ would have believed the use of deadly force was necessary. The result of Deputy Feller’s use of deadly force in this case was incredibly tragic. However, the facts support a finding that Deputy Feller made a mistake that a reasonable officer could have made in the same situation. Therefore, per Washington State law, Deputy Feller shall not be held criminally liable.’’
Golik said he was unable at this time to provide any other details due to the pending criminal case.
“Generally, in a deadly force review letter, the facts of the case are discussed in significant detail,’’ Golik wrote. “However, in this case, an individual has been criminally charged and that individual’s case is currently pending trial with our office. Because that case is pending trial, no further comment will be made regarding the facts of this case. When the pending criminal case related to this incident is complete, our office will be able to comment further regarding the facts of this case.’’
The 11-page review conducted by the team of outside prosecutors revealed that the panel of five elected prosecutors from around Washington state were unable to reach a consensus on the events that led to the fatal shooting of Sahota by Deputy Feller. Last year, Golik requested the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (WAPA) review the officer-involved shooting which took place on Jan. 29, 2022.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement about Golik’s decision.
“This afternoon we received a letter from Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik related to the officer-involved shooting involving Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Deputy Sheriff Jon Feller on January 29, 2022.
“In the letter, Mr. Golik explained that his office, after a complete review of the case, has made the decision that Deputy Feller will not be criminally charged in this matter. We have and will continue to provide support to Deputy Feller.
“As Mr. Golik has stated, there is pending criminal prosecution involving another party in this matter and this prohibits him from commenting on the specifics of the case any further. CCSO likewise will not make further comment on this incident until after the prosecution has concluded in this case, other than to say again that our thoughts, prayers, and support remain with the friends and family of Vancouver Police Officer Donald Sahota and the Vancouver Police Department.’’
Details of Sahota’s tragic death were released by the Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team just days after the shooting. On that evening, police responded to a Chevron gas station in Vancouver on the report of an armed robbery. The suspect, then 20-year-old Julio Cesar Segura, fled the scene in a stolen car with several hundred dollars. Twelve minutes later, the armed robbery suspect was intercepted by police traveling northbound on I-205. The robbery suspect failed to stop for police and the suspect eluded the officer’s apprehension attempts. The robbery suspect eluded officers for several miles and eventually exited I-5 toward the city of Battle Ground, where assisting officers successfully deployed spike strips to immobilize the vehicle. The robbery suspect then exited the vehicle and fled on foot to avoid apprehension.
As assisting officers established containment, a resident in the Battle Ground area called 9-1-1 reporting a lone male, coincidentally matching the description of the robbery suspect, was pounding on their front door asking for assistance because he had just been involved in a collision. The female caller, later identified as Sahota’s wife, told emergency dispatch that her husband was an armed off-duty Vancouver Police Department officer and had exited their residence onto the driveway in front of their home in an attempt to detain the suspect for responding officers.
The suspect then became aggressive and engaged in a physical fight with Sahota while his wife was still on the phone with emergency dispatch. Sahota lost control of his firearm and suffered several stab wounds during the struggle with the suspect. The suspect broke free from the struggle and ran toward the Sahota residence which was occupied by the officer’s wife, who was still on the phone with emergency dispatch.
The off-duty officer was able to recover his firearm that he lost control of during the struggle then ran after the suspect who was attempting to enter his home while still in possession of the instrument used to stab him. Within seconds of responding, law enforcement officers arrived on scene and Feller fired several rounds from a rifle striking the off-duty officer. Sahota collapsed on his front porch before responding officers were able to determine he was the homeowner and not the alleged robbery suspect. The suspect surrendered to police moments later and was taken into custody without incident. Officers attempted to provide emergency trauma care to Sahota, but they were unable to stabilize him.
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