January 23, 2011 in City

Clark: Tucker made right call in a sad case

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

So the verdict is finally in.

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker will NOT charge the sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed an elderly Spokane Valley pastor last August.

Is it just me, or was Tucker’s Friday announcement the least surprising local news development since the street department’s admission that Spokane has a pothole problem?

Seriously. Did anyone actually think that Tucker would ever take this cop case to a jury?

I’ll tell you what is positively shocking, though.

Now, I’ve shared my rather low regard for Tucker more than a time or two.

(Insert golf-obsessed prosecutor joke here.)

That said …

I believe Tucker made the unavoidable and legally correct conclusion.

Yep, I said it. I’m agreeing with him.

Feel free to stop reading for a moment and mop up the coffee many of you just spewed.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have plenty of doubts about what really happened in the dark parking lot outside The Plant Farm on the night of Aug. 25.

Have we heard the whole story?

I honestly don’t know.

Trouble is, there’s only one living witness. And that’s Brian Hirzel, the county lawman who pulled the trigger and killed 74-year-old Pastor Wayne Scott Creach.

Plus, this tragedy has been under a cloud of distrust that started when Hirzel was allowed to go off on a scheduled vacation rather than attend a key interview with investigators.

Then there was the phantom baton strike. Hirzel claimed he struck Creach hard on a knee, yet the autopsy showed no corresponding bruise.

And it’s never been clear to me just why Hirzel felt so compelled to use deadly force.

But as Tucker told our intrepid reporter Tom Clouse, “Unless we can show (Hirzel) is showing malice or evil intent, we can’t hold him criminally liable.”

Tucker’s right.

Here’s the bottom line:

Pastor Creach was armed with a handgun when he approached Deputy Hirzel, who was sitting in an unmarked police car.

If that’s not a recipe for doom, it will do until a better one comes along.

Creach had reasons for packing heat. There had been thefts at his business. This was a good man trying to protect his property.

He didn’t even have a bullet in the chamber of his weapon.

Hirzel, who was in uniform, couldn’t have known this at the time.

He told investigators that Creach refused to obey his orders to get on the ground. He says he saw Creach start to pull out his gun and, fearing for his life, opened fire.

Such a sad and terrible waste.

The last five frustrating months have been horrifying for the pastor’s family and friends.

Alan Creach, the pastor’s son, is understandably dissatisfied by Tucker’s decision. He vows to keep searching for the truth of what happened the night his dad was gunned down.

I hope he finds it. But I fear this story will always have an unhappy ending.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman- Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@ spokesman.com.

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