The Democratic challenger for Spokane County prosecutor on Monday called for the Washington State Patrol to take over the investigation into the fatal shooting of a Spokane Valley pastor.
Spokane lawyer Frank Malone said he had not contacted the WSP, but noted they were already involved in the investigation of the Aug. 25 shooting by Deputy Brian Hirzel as part of a protocol that is designed to avoid having a department investigate itself.
“This investigation is already compromised,” Malone said. “The deputy being allowed to go on vacation was ill-advised and created an unnecessary appearance of coziness with the legal system. The deputy is as interested in a credible investigation as anybody else. He doesn’t want this cloud hanging over him, either.”
Officials in charge of the investigation allowed Hirzel to travel to see family in Montana and then go on to Las Vegas for several days before he gave the statement in which he said 74-year-old Wayne Scott Creach came at him with a handgun.
Hirzel told investigators that he repeatedly told Creach to drop his gun. The pastor and business owner then placed the gun in his back waistband. Hirzel, who was in an unmarked patrol car on Creach’s property, said he ordered the shirtless man down to the ground, which he refused. Hirzel then said he struck Creach in the leg with a police baton and he fired only after Creach grabbed for his gun and began to draw it, Lt. Dave McGovern said last week.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Malone’s suggestion is up to officials from the WSP.
“The reason why Spokane Police and the WSP are doing it together is so there are multiple eyes on this case,” Knezovich said. “I don’t know that the (WSP officials) would do that this deep into the investigation.”
Malone also said he believed that his opponent, Republican incumbent Steve Tucker, should ask another prosecutor to make the decision on whether Hirzel faces criminal charges as a result of the investigation.
“There is also a conflict of interest in the fact the prosecutor’s office is tasked with defending Spokane County against liability claims and making decisions after these investigations. This is unacceptable,” Malone said. “The current situation cries out for an independent, unbiased prosecutor to make these decisions.”
Tucker said his office keeps a list of prosecutors who can step in when a conflict arises. But, he doesn’t see the need in the Hirzel investigation.
“I’m comfortable with the way it’s going right now,” Tucker said. “Spokane police are investigating. I’m sure they will do a complete job.”
Once investigators turn over the case, Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll will analyze it before Tucker makes a final judgment.
“Until he gets elected, he’s just somebody talking,” Tucker said of Malone. Being a finalist in the November election “doesn’t give him standing to make any calls for my office.”
Alan Creach, son of the slain pastor, said he doesn’t know what to think about Malone’s call for an outside prosecutor.
“I can’t make a statement about Steve Tucker,” Creach said.
“I’m looking at his track record in the Otto Zehm thing and that doesn’t look very good.”