Donald Sahota: Police officer was a man of integrity, professionalism

Friends and colleagues give a glimpse into the character of Don Sahota, a family man and law enforcement officer: ‘Everyone needs someone like Don’


They talk about his smile, but it was so much more than a smile.

It was a way of life for Don Sahota, to ensure those around him were comfortable, encouraged. 

Donald Sahota, a Vancouver police officer who was killed late last month, is being remembered by those who worked with him as a great family man and a caring law enforcement officer.
Donald Sahota, a Vancouver police officer who was killed late last month, is being remembered by those who worked with him as a great family man and a caring law enforcement officer.

That is what made him such a great man, his friends say, and such an ideal law enforcement officer.

A public memorial and procession is set for Tuesday to honor Donald Sahota, a Vancouver police officer who was killed late last month.

Over the weekend, Clark County Today talked to three friends, and work colleagues, to find out who Don Sahota was as a person and as a police officer.

“Don, he’s one of those guys, he would always find that way to connect to you,” said Sgt. Holly Musser. “Always positive, no matter the circumstance.”

“I think he was a man of integrity,” Cpl. Rey Reynolds said. “If you want to trust somebody, you trust Don. You could put a million dollars on the table and when you come back, there’s a million and one. He was a man you could trust with your life. If you’re out working with him, you know you can trust him.”

“Don was always a very caring law enforcement officer,” Cpl. Ryan Starbuck said. “He always cared about doing the job correctly and making sure every time he went out there he did his best. He was always there with a positive attitude. Just a great worker and a great friend.”

Law enforcement officers from Vancouver and Portland get behind a sign of support for Donald Sahota, the Vancouver police officer who died late last month. Photo by Paul Valencia
Law enforcement officers from Vancouver and Portland get behind a sign of support for Donald Sahota, the Vancouver police officer who died late last month. Photo by Paul Valencia

Starbuck noted how Sahota, also a pilot, loved to fly. But Sahota’s real passion was his family. 

“Whenever we had opportunities for us to chat outside of work … he always had stories about his family,” Starbuck said. 

A stranger or friend, Sahota had a way to make everyone feel better. That made him perfect for the job.

“Don smiled a lot. Every time you saw him,” Starbuck said. “Always kind of a quirky smile, off to one side. You knew he was happy and laughing because you could hear him from down the hallway.”

“His smile … contagious and lights up a room,” Musser said. “That’s how I’m going to remember him, just with that smile on his face.”

That smile reflected his entire personality. That personality made him a better police officer.

“He would be that steady, calm voice,” Musser said. “Calmness is contagious. That’s what he was out on patrol.”

She said she always wanted Sahota there when going through a door.

Sahota’s final assignment with Vancouver PD was as a training officer. Fitting, according to his colleagues, because he was a detail oriented officer with patience and understanding.

“He was a trainer’s trainer. He knew how to teach. That is a skill,” Reynolds said. “He could teach to whatever learning style you had so that you could understand what needs to be learned. That was a gift he had. Very few people in the world have that. He was gifted.

“He helped turn around our training program,” Reynolds continued. “It wasn’t bad, but when he got there, there was a marked increase … to the quality of our training and thinking-out-of-the-box training.”

Musser said she feels confident in today’s younger officers because they learned from Sahota. 

“The recruits we have benefited from knowing Don first,” she said. “They carry that legacy when they hit the street.”

Donald Sahota’s police vehicle is being used as a memorial for the officer. Photo by Paul Valencia
Donald Sahota’s police vehicle is being used as a memorial for the officer. Photo by Paul Valencia

Reynolds said he always joked about having so much seniority over Sahota. Sahota was quick with a comeback, but it was always about friends and colleagues having a good time with each other.

Musser, too, noted that while others outranked Sahota, they also followed Sahota.

“He touched everybody as an officer. He might not have had a rank above officer, but he was one of those quiet, servant leaders who anybody would follow at any time.”

Starbuck was in awe of Sahota’s attention to detail in just about all walks of life, and his drive to improve.

“We lost a community member. He really was part of this community and a family member to all of us,” Starbuck said. “He had his hand in a lot of pots and did well with those and every day he wanted to do better. We’re definitely going to miss that.”

Musser hopes all who knew Sahota will carry on his memory by trying to emulate his best qualities.

“He was someone who was humble, kind,” Musser said. “If you were at your lowest, he would give you that confidence to find the strength to keep going.
“Everyone needs someone like Don.”

Musser has been one of the organizers for Sahota’s memorial. She wants Tuesday’s memorial to be an opportunity for everyone to recognize all who they love.

“There’s a lot of us who have people like Don in our life, but we don’t take time to say, ‘Hey, I appreciate what you do,’” Musser said. “So in this moment, I really hope that people will recognize. … That’s who he was. He would always make you feel more positive, just encouraged.”

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Susan
Susan
9 months ago

Everyone, let’s remember that this man was killed by a CCSO deputy who violated one of the prime-directives in handling guns. The CCSO deputy fired at a target without first identifying that target.

The CCSO deputy’s life was not in danger, so the “split second decision to save my life” argument doesn’t hold water. The slain man was outside, running toward a home, with (reportedly) no other person in sight at that moment, so the “I had to shoot to prevent loss of another’s life” argument doesn’t seem to work, either.

And, if you think that if it had been YOU that did the shooting, and that two weeks later you’d still be walking free, lying low and avoiding public scrutiny, and not yet charged with a crime then you are living in a dream world. Yet, CCSO deputy feller is on a PAID VACATION for what he did!

The CCSO’s deputy should be placed on immediate unpaid leave, charged with a crime, convicted, and sent to jail. At the very least, he should be immediately terminated from the CCSO and blacklisted from ever holding a LEO position again.

As for Officer Sahota, I’m so very, very sorry for him and his family. He was killed as an armed husband, as an armed father, as an armed homeowner… who was protecting his family. Based on details released thus far, he was killed simply because HE HELD A GUN IN HIS HAND, and for no other reason.

It is hoped that the same outpouring of love and admiration can be seen for the next husband/father/homeowner that is senselessly killed… because with all that is happening within the CCSO, there WILL be a next time.

Dwight Karlsen
Dwight Karlsen
9 months ago
Reply to  Susan

I agree 150%, Susan. Emptying a high powered rifle into the first person he saw at an address(who he believed to be) a fleeing robbery suspect is probably not what is taught at the police academy.

Dwight Karlsen
Dwight Karlsen
9 months ago

Has his assassins been charged yet? Why would a cop empty his rifle into a person who was feeling a robbery? The last time LE did this was the ambush of Bonnie and Clyde 88 years ago. And they at least were identified by their vehicle.

Dwight Karlsen
Dwight Karlsen
9 months ago
Reply to  Dwight Karlsen

fleeing

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