Pastor Wayne Scott Creach not only routinely carried his .45-caliber pistol on his property, he was known by police to hold theft suspects at gunpoint until officers could arrive and once apprehended a fleeing man several blocks away by threatening to “blow his head off.”
Those incidents were among the 21 contacts Spokane County Sheriff’s Office deputies had with Creach or his business, the Plant Farm, over the past five years, according to records obtained by The Spokesman-Review.
On April 14, 2008, for example, Creach saw someone just after 1 a.m. riding a bicycle away from his nursery complex at 14208 E. Fourth Ave. in Spokane Valley with what looked like a plant hanging out of a backpack.
“When the male continued riding away, (Creach) got into his car and drove around the neighborhood looking for the suspect,” according to the Sheriff’s Office report. Creach “found the male near the intersection of 8th and McDonald. (Creach) stopped the male, pointed his .45 caliber pistol at him and told him to get into his car or he would blow his head off.”
The report details one of nine calls for theft or burglary at the sprawling nursery complex. Of those 21 total contacts, some were for simple business checks or civil papers and two were for prowl checks.
It was while on a prowl check Aug. 25 that Deputy Brian Hirzel, who was assigned to the Spokane Valley Police Department, parked his unmarked police car in Creach’s parking lot. The car was backed up to the same merchandise area that had generated many of the calls to deputies over the years.
On that night, Creach again armed himself with the .45-caliber pistol; his family believes it was because he thought Hirzel was yet another thief.
Hirzel told investigators that he saw a shirtless Creach approaching from about 30 feet away with a gun in his hand. Hirzel said he ordered Creach to drop his weapon and the pastor refused. Eventually, Creach put the gun in his waistband but refused Hirzel’s commands to get down on the ground, police officials have said.
Hirzel told investigators that he hit Creach with a police baton that caused him to crumple. Hirzel said Creach reached for his weapon and Hirzel fired when he saw the butt of Creach’s gun.
What’s not clear from the Sheriff’s Office records – because identities of individual deputies were blacked out – was whether Hirzel was ever one of the deputies who responded to the Plant Farm during his two years on the force. Spokane Police Department Lt. Dave McGovern said last week that Hirzel told investigators he did not have any previous knowledge of Creach carrying a weapon at the nursery.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Tuesday he was unaware that the deputies’ names were not included in the records released this week. Public records requests are handled by one of his lieutenants.
“I think it’s important that we all know who was at those contacts,” Knezovich said, expressing his disappointment that the identity of the deputies was redacted from the reports before they were released.
The Sheriff’s Office also would not release records of the 911 call made by Creach’s wife that night, saying it’s part of an ongoing investigation.
But the records that were made available this week show two other contacts this year, one on July 6 for a noninjury collision, and another on Aug. 3 for a report of someone breaking into two vans and stealing fire extinguishers valued at $50 each.
Deputies responded four times each in 2009 and 2008.
Knezovich said 21 reports in five years did not jump out as a high number. “I wouldn’t say it would be out of the ordinary. The bigger the business, the more contacts,” he said.
The Creach family’s nursery and greenhouse complex spreads across several acres in a predominantly residential part of Spokane Valley.
The most detailed police report came from the incident on April 14, 2008, when Creach chased down the suspected plant thief.
Creach told the deputy that his greenhouse alarm activated that night. He saw the suspect riding away on a bicycle and “told the male to stop but the male continued riding his bike away,” the report states.
After apprehending the man, whose name was redacted, Creach took him in his car back to his home, which sits adjacent to his business.
Alan Creach said he remembers his father telling a different version of the story. Scott Creach told his son that he felt threatened when he confronted the suspected thief.
Scott Creach “pursued him. He cut the guy off. When he cut him off, the guy started to get in the car,” Alan Creach said. “Dad told me when (the suspect) opened the door, he told him, ‘If you get in the car, I’ll blow your head off.’ It was a pretty intense moment.”
When deputies arrived, they found the man in handcuffs on the couch in the living room.
“There were no charges brought against Dad,” Alan Creach said. “The officers didn’t object to what he said.”
But the deputy wrote in the report that Scott Creach “stated he told the male he would blow his head off because the suspect would not have listened had he simply asked him to come with him,” the report states. Creach “also stated he said this to the male since the male was larger and younger than he.”