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.
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.”
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.”
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.”