August 26, 2010 in City

Officer shoots, kills nursery owner, pastor

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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W. Scott Creach in April 2008.
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Download Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich’s statement (PDF) from Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, on the death of W. Scott Creach.

A Southern Baptist pastor and owner of a Spokane Valley plant nursery was shot and killed by a Spokane Valley police officer late Wednesday, police said.

W. Scott Creach, 74, approached the police officer who had gone to his business before midnight after police had received a request for increased patrols there earlier in the day, police said.

The uniformed officer was parked in an unmarked car in the empty parking lot of Creach’s businesses, the Plant Farm at 14208 E. Fourth Ave. and Creach Greenhouse adjacent to the Plant Farm.

Creach, who lives next door to his nursery and has served as pastor of Greenacres Baptist Church for 40 years, approached the officer. A confrontation ensued, according to police.

The officer fired his weapon, according to a news release from Spokane police spokeswoman Jennifer DeRuwe.

A handgun was found on the ground next to Creach after the shooting.

The request for patrols was passed along to the graveyard shift, but DeRuwe refused to say who made the request for extra patrols.

Spokane police were investigating the incident under a protocol that calls for city police to investigate officer-involved incidents taking place in the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, which staffs Spokane Valley Police.

DeRuwe declined provide the officer’s name, how many shots were fired and by whom, whether the officer tried to contact the business owner prior to driving into the parking in the lot in an unmarked police car.

A worker at the greenhouses said that Creach had been protecting his property for 15 years and had gone out at night to check on the land armed with a gun.

“In the blink of an eye they destroyed a lot of people,” said the worker, who declined to give his name.

Alan Creach, the pastor’s son, said in a statement to the media that his father had gotten up from bed and gone out to check on a vehicle and occupant parked in the lot of the Plant Farm.

The father had suspected that the driver of the vehicle was a prowler, he said.

“We have suffered a terrible tragedy,” Alan Creach said. “”We are going to miss him.”

Alan Creach later declined a request for an interview.

Creach’s wife said she heard three shots, but a neighbor across the street said he heard only one shot, Alan Creach said in his statement to the media early Thursday morning.

The neighbor said that when he moved into the neighborhood, Creach stopped by to introduce himself. “He was a great guy,” the neighbor said.

A witness to the investigation said that while officers were investigating, Alan Creach emerged from the family home and was yelling about how his father’s body had been left in the parking lot for several hours.

The body remained in the lot until 6 a.m.

Detectives routinely take several hours to investigate a death scene before they allow the county medical examiner to remove a body. An autopsy Thursday showed that Creach died of gunshot wound to his chest.

Another nursery worker, who did not give her name, said she was incredulous over the incident. “He gets shot on his own property?” she asked.

Known as Pastor Scott, Creach founded Greenacres Baptist Church in 1971. Located at 18620 E. Sprague Ave., the church has about 300 members.

A prayer service was held there at 7 a.m. with about 20 church members attending, said a church member who declined to give his name.

“He was a good friend,” the man said as he stopped from mowing the church lawn.

Spokane Valley Police Chief Rick Van Leuven declined to comment about any aspect of the investigation.

However, he recently provided information to the Spokane Valley City Council showing that burglaries in July had nearly doubled compared to the same month in 2009. And, reports of car prowling have jumped from 63 last July to 156 this year.

“We establish hot spots of areas where there is a concentration of incidents of crime that occurs,” Van Leuven said. “Based on that, we try to proactively police those areas.”

The area where the shooting took place is located in one of those designated “hot spots” established by the department’s criminal analysis team.

“Of course they concern me,” Van Leuven said of the growing numbers of property crimes. “We actively try to work … those areas where we have identified increased rates of burglaries and car prowling.”

People who knew Creach were driving by the nursery and the church. One man left five ears of corn next to the Plant Farm sign and planter in front of the business.

“He’s been in the Valley forever, a great farmer,” said Delores Nichols, who was with a friend in front of the nursery. “We all bought plants here all of the time.”

Rev. Bill Dropko, fellowship pastor at Greenacres Christian Church, said Creach was unable to attend pastor fellowship meetings because he was too busy trying to run the businesses.

“He was a very busy man,” Dropko said.

Alan Creach had taken charge of the business recently.

Garden writer Pat Munts whose articles appear in The Spokesman-Review said Creach raised high quality plants for years. “He did a lot for the community,” she said, describing his death as a tragedy. “He was an institution,” she said.

Reporter Thomas Clouse contributed to this report


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