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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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
Jan. 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
Jan. 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
Jan. 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
Creach case hinges on self-defense claim
Jan. 15, 2011 in City on Page A1 In principle, it seems clear that a 74-year-old pastor on his own property should not die as a result of an encounter with law enforcement, as Wayne Scott Creach did … 103
Example guides new head pastor after fatal shooting
Dec. 29, 2010 in City on Page A1 The Rev. Eric Walsh was living in McKenzie, Tenn., when he heard in late 2009 about an opening at Greenacres Baptist Church in Spokane Valley. Walsh got the job, and … 2
Recent police shootings raise notion of inquests
Dec. 19, 2010 in City on Page A1 Nearly four months after their father was shot to death by a deputy sheriff in Spokane Valley, sons of Wayne Scott Creach are still looking for answers. Police detectives investigating … 70
Deputy cleared over sex toys business
Dec. 18, 2010 in City on Page B3 The deputy who shot a Spokane Valley pastor will not face discipline for failing to disclose his co-ownership of a business that sold sex toys online. Spokane County Deputy Brian … 2
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Police investigate burglary at Creach son’s house
Dec. 16, 2010 in City on Page A9 Spokane Valley police were searching Wednesday for at least three intruders who ransacked the home of Ernie Creach, son of slain Spokane Valley pastor Wayne Scott Creach. Ernie Creach said …
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County considers using reserves to save public safety jobs
Dec. 3, 2010 in City on Page A7 Spokane County commissioners may dip into reserves to save jobs and offset some of the most painful cuts in their 2011 general fund budget. Commissioners Mark Richard and Bonnie Mager … 6
Deputy in probe shot dog, spurring lawsuit
Nov. 20, 2010 in City on Page B1 The deputy under investigation for shooting a Spokane Valley pastor was sued in California after he shot the dog of a woman who was performing CPR on her dying husband. … 33
Officers making life or death decisions in an instant
Nov. 7, 2010 in City on Page A1 Facing the muzzle of a gun, a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy said he had one immediate thought: death. Ryan Walter squeezed off eight rounds at the gunman, Donald J. Lafavor. … 64
Creach family hires forensic expert
Decision on Creach shooting charges unlikely before election
Oct. 16, 2010 in City on Page A1 Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker is asking voters for another four years in office at the same time he is trying to decide whether to bring charges in a controversial … 37
Prosecuter receives Creach autopsy
Oct. 8, 2010 in City on Page A5 The autopsy report of pastor Wayne Scott Creach has been turned over to Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker, but it does little to answer many of the family’s questions. Creach’s … 75
Sheriff drops the wait in shooting probes
Oct. 1, 2010 in City on Page A1 Investigators probing officer-involved shootings will no longer be required to wait at least 72 hours before interviewing Spokane County Sheriff’s Office employees. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich announced the change Thursday, ending … 28
Sheriff ends 72-hour rule
Creach son questions Valley police contract
Sept. 29, 2010 in City on Page A5 The son of pastor Wayne Scott Creach, killed by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy last month, urged the Spokane Valley City Council on Tuesday to change its police services contract … 5