Clark County prosecutors on Tuesday filed a slew of new charges, including murder, against a robbery suspect who was being chased when Vancouver police Officer Donald Sahota was shot to death.
Investigators have said Sahota died after being shot by a Clark County sheriff’s deputy in a case of mistaken identity. But prosecutors argue in court papers that Julio Segura, 20, of Yakima, caused Sahota’s death while committing or attempting to commit other crimes, including burglary, attempted kidnapping and assault.
In all, the amended charging information accuses Segura of three counts of first-degree murder and one count each of second-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, first-degree attempted kidnapping, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle.
Segura originally faced charges of first-degree attempted murder, first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle.
He is scheduled to be arraigned on the amended information Wednesday in Clark County Superior Court.
The incidents occurred on Jan. 29. First, a man, later identified as Segura, showed a pistol and robbed a convenience store in Orchards. Police soon located the getaway car, and chased it toward Battle Ground. After officers used spike strips to flatten its tires, the driver bailed out and ran to a nearby home, which happened to be that of the Sahota family, according to investigators and court records.
A struggle ensued between Segura and Sahota, 52. Segura is accused of stabbing Sahota three times. Moments later, an arriving deputy, identified by investigators as Jonathan Feller, mistakenly shot and killed Sahota, court records say.
The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Sahota died from gunshot wounds to the torso.
Segura allegedly told investigators that he knew Sahota was a police officer, and he thought he had killed Sahota, according to a probable-cause affidavit.
The shooting is being investigated by the Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team from Cowlitz County.
Prior to the new charges being filed, Segura’s court-appointed attorney, Neil Cane, filed a motion requesting the court to lower Segura’s bail from $5 million to $50,000. Cane wrote that Segura did not kill Sahota and, “the state alleges circumstances in the most obvious charge suggesting an assault 1 or 2 with a knife.”
“We people in Vancouver, WA, have been experiencing a wave of civilian killings by local police in this community for the past few years,” Cane wrote. “In this matter, the officer who intended to kill Mr. Segura chose a homeowner, apparently in error. This is a tragedy that yet another police officer killed someone. This tragedy is not to be a basis to prejudice Mr. Segura.”
Cane also requested the case be moved to King County, citing a more diverse population there, the amount of publicity the case has received locally and comments Judge John Fairgrieve made during Segura’s first appearance Jan. 31.
When Fairgrieve set Segura’s bail at $5 million, he said it was “hard to think of a more dangerous series of acts.”
Fairgrieve has since been disqualified from the case, although court records don’t state the reason.
A public memorial service for Sahota was held Feb. 8 at ilani Casino Resort. Hundreds of emergency responder vehicles participated in a procession that followed the officer’s motorcade to the casino.
Sahota is survived by his wife and two children. He had worked with the Vancouver Police Department since April 2014 and was most recently assigned to the training unit, according to the police department.