The sons of slain pastor Wayne Scott Creach have taken their quest for justice to the state Legislature.
Alan and Ernie Creach, and the Freedom Restoration Project, a gun rights activist group, submitted two bills last week they hope will curb unjustified police shootings and the illegal use of unmarked vehicles, in response to the Aug. 25 shooting death of 74-year-old Creach in Spokane Valley.
“We’ve got a problem in our community,” Alan Creach said. “I believe we need to sit down and look at the laws that let that happen and try to correct them so it doesn’t happen to someone else.”
Prosecutor Steve Tucker said in January he would not file criminal charges against Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hirzel because he couldn’t prove malice or bad faith, required to convict law enforcement personnel who have killed someone.
If passed, one of the two bills would remove the malice and bad faith components of the law. While time to submit a bill has passed, the sponsors hope it will bring attention to their cause for the next legislative session.
“It is impossible to prove what an officer thought or felt at the time of an incident, and thus impossible to convict a police officer, no matter how egregious the shooting,” said Kevin Schmadeka, director of the Freedom Restoration Project, who called the current law “a license to kill.”
Tucker also refused to charge Hirzel based on his claims of self-defense, a statute that applies to everyone, although the Creach family says the autopsy report suggests Creach was in a submissive position when shot.
The second bill aims to make any unlawful uses of a patrol car a misdemeanor. State law says a “public officer’s” car must be clearly marked on the left and right sides unless it is being used for confidential, investigative or undercover work. Currently, a public officer in violation of the law is subject to disciplinary action by his or her employer.
Hirzel was sitting in an unmarked Spokane Valley police car on Creach’s property before the fatal confrontation. Alan Creach said if his dad knew the vehicle was a patrol car, he would not have gone out to investigate what he thought was suspicious activity.
“The law is intended to make police officers readily identifiable to the public and to each other, for some very real public safety reasons,” he said. “It is not reasonable that the very people who are tasked with upholding the law are the ones who are openly flouting it.”
However, sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan said Hirzel’s car, while lacking a logo on the side, had all the other accessories typical of police cars, including spotlights, antennas and push bars on the front grill.
“We will function within what we believe are parameters of the law, and if we are acting outside of the law, the court will determine that,” Reagan said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter