September 5, 2010 in City

Deputy says he struck pastor with baton

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The deputy who shot and killed a Spokane Valley pastor Aug. 25 told investigators that he used a baton on Wayne Scott Creach, and repeatedly ordered him to drop his gun before firing his own pistol, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich confirmed Sunday.

Alan Creach, son of Wayne Scott Creach, said Sunday that investigators told him about Deputy Brian Hirzel’s statement that he’d struck his father once with a baton, but that investigators had asked him not to disclose that detail to the media. A news release issued by Spokane Police on Friday made no mention of the baton.

Creach said his father’s autopsy, however, showed no evidence of a baton strike to his leg, “although the deputy claimed he did strike at my father” there. Creach said a Spokane Police detective investigating the incident shared the autopsy information with him.

The detail first was reported on KXLY Sunday and attributed only to “law enforcement sources.” Knezovich confirmed that Hirzel described an incident involving repeated verbal warnings and a baton strike before he drew his weapon and fired it one time, striking Creach in the chest.

Creach, a longtime pastor and owner of the Plant Farm, 14208 E. Fourth Ave., had gone outside with his pistol to check on something in the parking lot. Hirzel was parked there in an unmarked car, in response to a call about a prowling in the area from a neighboring land owner.

The pastor’s death and the subsequent handling of the investigation – including Knezovich’s decision to let Hirzel continue on a planned weeklong vacation before conducting a full interview – have drawn intense public scrutiny and criticism.

Alan Creach said his father often confronted people trespassing on his property, gun in hand.

“He’s apprehended thieves and a lot of them, but in all of those events, he never shot anybody, ever,” Creach said. He said police had responded to the property after those incidents, so “there’s no excuse that they didn’t know he’d be on his property with his weapon.”

He added, “I think what they’re trying to do is portray him as a man who was out of control.”

Details of the confrontation between Creach and Hirzel have been scarce.

Alan Creach said Sunday he believes the information is being released “bit by bit,” and wishes investigators would “just lay the whole thing out… and allow us as a community to take a look at all the evidence.”

The night of the shooting, Hirzel had parked his unmarked cruiser in the lot at the Plant Farm, in response to a call about prowlings in the area. Hirzel is a deputy with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department, but is assigned to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

He told investigators he saw a shirtless man armed with a pistol approaching from about 30 feet away. Hirzel said Creach ignored his commands to drop the gun, and came within two feet of his car, according to the KXLY report. That was when Hirzel got out, continued ordering Creach to drop the gun, and struck Creach with a baton, he said, according to KXLY. At that point, Creach began to point his gun at Hirzel and Hirzel fired, he said.

Knezovich said those details corresponded with his knowledge of the investigation.

He said he did not know why the information about the baton had not been released, and didn’t consider it sensitive to the investigation. He emphasized that the sheriff’s department is not conducting the shooting investigation or handling the release of information to either the public or the family.

The Spokane Police Department is doing so, as part of an agreement between the agencies to investigate officer-involved shootings. Attempts to reach Spokane Police representatives on Sunday were unsuccessful.

“I think there’s a misperception out there that the sheriff’s office is in charge of the investigation and the information being released,” Knezovich said. “We’re not in charge of that.”

Knezovich did approve allowing Hirzel to continue with a planned vacation before giving a full interview. Hirzel gave a basic “tactical” interview after the shooting. Knezovich has said he approved the vacation to avoid appearing to coerce Hirzel and taint the longer interview.


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