Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich extended condolences Friday to the family of slain pastor Wayne Scott Creach and asked for the community to be patient as investigators determine why he was shot by a Spokane Valley police officer.
Knezovich said he wants to assure residents that a “full and complete” investigation will be performed and that all the details will eventually come out. However, he offered no new details and did not name the officer who shot the 74-year-old pastor.
“Two nights ago our community experienced a very unfortunate death that has impacted many lives,” Knezovich said. “None of these lives will ever be the same. I want to express to the family of Wayne Creach our sorrow for their loss.”
The Creach family issued a statement Friday, thanking the community for its prayers and support.
“We would also like to take this opportunity to say that while we are in shock and extreme grief, we know that the deputy who was involved in this tragedy is also dealing with his own personal issues,” wrote Ernie Creach, the pastor’s son. “We know he will carry the memory of Wednesday night and this tragedy with him for the rest of his life.”
Knezovich would not take questions about the investigation, which is being led by the Spokane Police Department as part of an agreement in which an outside agency investigates officer-involved shootings.. The Sheriff’s Office contracts with Spokane Valley to provide deputies as its police.
Spokane police Maj. Scott Stephens said one of the reasons more details have not come out is because investigators had not yet interviewed the officer who shot Creach. Stephens said he didn’t know if anybody else witnessed the shooting.
The shooting occurred after a neighbor requested extra patrols in the area of Creach’s greenhouse, the Plant Farm, 14208 E. Fourth Ave. Creach lived in a home next to the business.
The officer parked Wednesday night in the Plant Farm parking lot in an unmarked Ford Crown Victoria patrol car, which did not bear a Spokane Valley Police logo or overhead lights, officials said. It did have a side-mounted spotlight and numerous antennas, said Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.
Apparently thinking the officer was a prowler, Creach approached. Officials have not said what happened next other than the officer shot Creach in the chest. Investigators did find a gun near Creach but did not elaborate. They have not said how many shots were fired or by whom.
“As soon as the facts are compiled, they will be released,” Knezovich said. “Until that time, I believe it is important that we not speculate as to what happened that night. We need to remember that the lives of all of those involved, including the deputy and his family, have been changed forever.”
Stephens said he did not expect any new information to be released about the case until Thursday.
Under each department’s protocols – negotiated with unions – officers are not interviewed by detectives for 48 hours following the shooting, Stephens said.
“There are all kinds of psychological (reasons) as why you don’t want to interview an officer after an officer-involved shooting prior to that 48-hour period,” Stephens said. The protocol is “based on recommendations by psychologists as best practices for police departments.”
When asked why regular citizens aren’t afforded that grace period, Stephens pointed out that residents have the right to withhold any statements to police if they wish.
“If we have probable cause to arrest somebody, that’s a different matter. But if they are a witness or a suspect and they choose not to talk to us … they can pretty much direct when they are going to talk to us,” Stephens said.
Similar to the 48-hour grace period, both the Sheriff’s Office and Police Department have policies to not release names of officers to the media until at least 72 hours after a shooting, Stephens said.
“That has been in effect for years because it gives the officer time to debrief with their family, to let them know, ‘I was the officer involved in this incident,’ so the family can get ready for all kinds of questions and comments and blogs,” he said. “That has nothing to do with the investigation.”
DeRuwe echoed Knezovich’s plea for patience. “I know there are a lot of unanswered questions, but we have to give detectives time to work,” she said. “I know at times people don’t have confidence in the Police Department or the Sheriff’s Office. But I can only stand up here and say, ‘Please have confidence.’ ”
Ernie Creach wrote of his father, who 40 years ago founded Greenacres Baptist Church: “Dad loved his family and the people of this community – he was a pastor, business owner, employer and friend,” Ernie Creach wrote. “His passing will leave a huge hole in the lives of many.”