June 22, 2011 in City, News
No disciplinary action for deputy who shot pastor
The deputy who shot a 74-year-old Spokane Valley pastor will face no disciplinary action over the fatal encounter.
Deputy Brian Hirzel properly followed all departmental policies and procedures during the fatal Aug. 25 encounter with Wayne Scott Creach, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said today in announcing the results of his internal investigation. He met with members of the Creach family earlier in the day to advise them of the findings as well.
The decision disappointed the Creach family. In an e-mail prior to his briefing with the sheriff, Alan Creach — the pastor’s son — again called for the sheriff to stop using unmarked cars on private property, a point of contention that family members believe contributed to the fatal encounter.
“Ozzie has chosen to mis-read the law and/or stretch its meaning to say that he has a blanket exemption for his patrol cars,” Creach wrote. “We believe that not only is it unlawful for him to use patrol cars in this manner but is simply unethical in his willful misinterpretation.”
Hirzel had already been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office, and Knezovich’s 12-member Citizen Advisory Board came to essentially the same conclusion following a review the Aug. 25 shooting.
The shooting occurred after Hirzel parked his unmarked patrol vehicle in the parking lot of Creach’s nursery, The Plant Farm, at 14208 E. Fourth Ave., after a resident in the area complained about vandalism and other mischief in the area.
The elder Creach, who lived alongside the nursery, armed himself with a .45 caliber pistol - as he previously had done several times when investigating suspicious circumstances on his property - and approached the vehicle.
Hirzel told investigators that he repeatedly ordered Creach to drop the gun, but investigators could find no neighbors who heard any of that exchange.
Only Creach’s wife, Imogene, reported hearing anything, and she described what sounded like her husband yelling out in fear before the shot was fired.
Hirzel said Creach initially responded that he didn’t have to drop his gun, and mentioned that he had had problems with theft in the past. But Creach eventually put the gun in the back waistband of his pants.
Hirzel then ordered Creach onto the ground, but Creach refused. Hirzel couldn’t remember exactly when he called for backup but said he struck Creach on the outside of the left knee with a police baton.
Then, Hirzel said, Creach reached for his gun.
“When, when I saw his hand go behind his back and come out with a gun, or the grip of the gun that I saw, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that he was going to shoot me,” Hirzel told investigators, according to transcripts.