Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker will not bring charges against a sheriff’s deputy for fatally shooting an armed Spokane Valley pastor Aug. 25, 2010.
Tucker said Jan. 21, 2011, his decision in the shooting of Wayne Scott Creach came down to this fact: Deputy Brian Hirzel has more protection under the law than the average citizen.
“As soon as you feel you are in imminent danger, like drawing a gun, you are allowed to use deadly force,” Tucker said. Hirzel “was the only witness we had.”
It is one of the most controversial police shootings in Spokane County in years.
The Spokane Police Department, which was asked to investigate the shooting of the 74-year-old nursery owner, released its 733-page investigative file on Sept. 16. The file made no recommendation on whether the shooting was justified or if criminal charges should be filed against Hirzel, who is assigned to the Spokane Valley Police Department.
However, Tucker said state law clearly states that a person must follow a lawful order from police. “When an officer asks you to drop a weapon, you drop it,” he said. “Even in the Old West, if a deputy sheriff comes up on an outlaw and says ‘Drop the gun,’ you drop the gun or a gunbattle starts.”
Creach’s son, Alan Creach, has said his father was well within his rights to carry a gun to protect his property, as he had done for years.
Creach, who had gone to check on why a car was in his parking lot so late at night, died shortly after Hirzel shot him once in the chest during an encounter in the parking lot of the Creach family’s nursery and greenhouse complex at 14208 E. Fourth Ave.
Hirzel was in uniform but driving an unmarked patrol car that he had pulled into the nursery lot to watch for prowlers in the neighborhood. The 18-year law enforcement veteran said he was writing up a collision report about 11:07 p.m. when he saw the shirtless Creach approach with a gun in his right hand and a flashlight in his left.
Though no witnesses heard him, Hirzel said he ordered Creach five or six times to drop the gun. He said Creach replied that he didn’t have to and instead put the .45-caliber, semi-automatic pistol in his back waistband.
Hirzel said he ordered Creach to the ground, but the older man refused, and the deputy struck Creach in the leg with his baton using a backhand swing. Hirzel said Creach then reached for his gun and Hirzel fired when he saw the butt of the weapon.
Right after the shooting, Hirzel was allowed to take a scheduled vacation to Montana and Las Vegas – a fact that wasn’t revealed to the public for several days, and which prompted a public outcry. Nine days passed before detectives interviewed Hirzel about the shooting, and by then the deputy couldn’t recall several details about the fatal encounter, such as how close he was to the pastor when he shot him; how it happened that his patrol car’s spotlight was turned on and pointed in Creach’s direction; and whether his request for backup was made before or after the baton strike.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Hirzel was willing to talk the night of the shooting, but investigators were concerned about violating policies prohibiting interviews in critical incidents like officer-involved shootings within the first 72 hours. On Sept. 30, Knezovich announced a reversal of that practice, saying investigators probing officer-involved shootings no longer will be required to wait three days before interviewing employees of the sheriff’s office.
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Latest updates in this topic
Creach civil case can move to trial
February 12, 2013 in City on Page A1 A civil suit against a sheriff’s deputy in the 2010 shooting death of a Spokane Valley pastor has enough evidence to warrant a jury trial, a federal judge has ruled. … 86
Police won’t say if suspect was armed
September 7, 2012 in City on Page A1 Law enforcement officials are refusing to say whether a man killed by deputies Wednesday was armed when he was gunned down in his girlfriend’s backyard in Spokane Valley, though the … 77
Creach family files civil rights lawsuit
November 20, 2011 in City on Page B3 The family of a Spokane Valley pastor killed last year by a sheriff’s deputy has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. The lawsuit filed Friday by the family of Pastor … 19
Creach family seeks millions
July 20, 2011 in City on Page A5 The family of slain Spokane Valley pastor Wayne Scott Creach has filed a $14.7 million wrongful death claim against Spokane County, which is the first step in filing a civil … 26
Creach family files $15 million claim against county
July 19, 2011 in City, News The family of slain Spokane Valley pastor Wayne Scott Creach has filed a $14.7 million wrongful death claim against Spokane County, which is a necessary prelude to filing a civil … 23
Jamie Neely: Pastor Creach tale a painful lesson
Sheriff’s office releases Creach shooting investigation
Deputy cleared in Creach shooting
June 23, 2011 in City on Page A1 The Spokane County sheriff’s deputy who shot a 74-year-old Spokane Valley pastor last year will face no disciplinary action over the fatal encounter. Deputy Brian Hirzel followed all departmental policies … 23
No disciplinary action for deputy who shot pastor
June 22, 2011 in City, News The deputy who shot 74-year-old Wayne Scott Creach will face no disciplinary action after being cleared in an internal investigation examining his compliance with departmental policy and procedures during the … 100
Clark: Unmarked police car bill solves no one’s problems
May 12, 2011 in City on Page A5 I’ve long held the belief that if Olympia’s electricity came from brainpower the Statehouse would be in a perpetual gloom. Even so, I’m confident there’s still enough wisdom at the … 58
Creaches want all cars marked
May 12, 2011 in City on Page A5 No one has lost more from the August shooting that killed a Spokane Valley pastor than Imogene Creach. The widow of 74-year-old Wayne Scott Creach stood among family members Wednesday … 16
Pastor’s family seeks limits on unmarked police cars
May 11, 2011 in City, News The family of a Spokane Valley pastor killed in a police confrontation outside his home called on Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich today to voluntarily prohibit the parking of unmarked patrol cars … 27
Unmarked police cars targeted
May 11, 2011 in City on Page A5 Two lawmakers from Spokane Valley want to bar law enforcement officers from parking unmarked police cars on private property for routine matters. The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Reps. Matt … 13
Washington bill addresses unmarked patrol cars
Panels find Creach shooting reasonable
April 28, 2011 in City on Page A1 Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hirzel acted “in a reasonable manner” when he fatally shot a 74-year-old pastor last summer in Spokane Valley, two departmental reviews have concluded. “Deputy Brian … 20
Sheriff’s panels say pastor’s shooting was ‘reasonable’
April 27, 2011 in City, News Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hirzel acted “in a reasonable manner” when he fatally shot a 74-year-old pastor last summer in Spokane Valley, two departmental reviews have concluded. 44
Slain pastor’s sons push for new laws
April 3, 2011 in City on Page B3 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 … 4
Clark: Tucker made right call in a sad case
January 23, 2011 in City on Page B1 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. 34
Deputy won’t face charges in shooting
January 22, 2011 in City on Page A1 A Spokane County Sheriff’s Office deputy won’t face criminal charges in the shooting death of a 74-year-old Spokane Valley pastor, a decision Prosecutor Steve Tucker says came down to this … 50
Deputy won’t be charged in shooting death of pastor
January 21, 2011 in City, News Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker has decided not to file criminal charges against the deputy who shot 74-year-old pastor Wayne Scott Creach during a confrontation last August in Spokane Valley. 171