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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Sheriff regrets way vacation decision was made
Sept. 8, 2010 in City Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is frustrated and caught off-guard by the public reaction to the decision to allow Deputy Brian Hirzel to leave for vacation just hours after he … 48
Police detail Hirzel account of shooting that killed pastor
Sept. 8, 2010 in City on Page A1 Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hirzel said he ordered pastor Wayne Scott Creach to drop his gun multiple times, struck the 74-year-old man in the leg with a police baton … 153
Creach drawing gun when shot, police say
Sept. 7, 2010 in City Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hirzel said he ordered Pastor Wayne Scott Creach to drop his gun multiple times, struck the 74-year-old man in the leg with a police baton … 102
Deputy says he hit pastor with baton
Sept. 6, 2010 in City on Page A1 The deputy who shot and killed a Spokane Valley pastor on Aug. 25 told investigators that he used a baton on Wayne Scott Creach and repeatedly ordered him to drop … 81
Deputy says he struck pastor with baton
Doug Clark: Ozzie out of character on this one
Sept. 5, 2010 in City on Page B1 I remember the moment I became an Ozzie Knezovich fan. It was June 2006. That’s when Knezovich showed Joseph “Cuppa Joe” Mastel and the citizens of Spokane County what being … 40
Deputy says he saw pastor approaching with gun
Sept. 3, 2010 in City Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hirzel told investigators Friday that he saw Pastor Wayne Scott Creach approaching his unmarked patrol car from a distance of about 30 feet with a … 69
Creach interred near childhood home in Oklahoma
Sept. 3, 2010 in City on Page A7 Wayne Scott Creach was laid to rest Thursday on a hillside cemetery in a plot that overlooks the tiny Oklahoma town and nearby farm where the pastor and Spokane Valley … 73
Deputy’s approved vacation stalls interview about shooting
Sept. 2, 2010 in City on Page A1 The interview that could explain why a deputy shot and killed a Spokane Valley pastor will come Friday morning – after the deputy returns from a weeklong vacation approved by … 93
Son offers insight into pastor’s fatal encounter
Sept. 1, 2010 in City on Page A1 Spokane Valley pastor Wayne Scott Creach and his wife had a prearranged system for when the business owner encountered trespassers on the couple’s sprawling nursery and greenhouse complex in Spokane … 79
Mourners note ‘good example’ set by slain clergyman
Aug. 31, 2010 in City on Page A1 Hundreds gathered on a crisp Monday morning to grieve the loss of a man whose preaching and gardening left an unforgettable imprint on those who met Wayne Scott Creach. The … 8
Officer involved in shooting identified
Aug. 31, 2010 in City on Page A1 The deputy who fatally shot a Spokane Valley pastor and business owner last week was identified Monday as Brian Hirzel, a two-year veteran of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office who … 6
Sheriff says interview with deputy won’t be “friendly”
Mourners recall the life of pastor, nurseryman
Sheriff offers condolences, withholds details in shooting
Aug. 28, 2010 in City on Page A1 Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich extended condolences Friday to the family of slain pastor Wayne Scott Creach and asked for the community to be patient as investigators determine why he … 43
Sheriff vows ‘full and complete’ investigation into shooting
Aug. 27, 2010 in City Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich extended condolences today to the family of slain pastor S. Wayne Creach, who was shot to death Wednesday evening by a Spokane Valley Police officer. … 32
Valley officer kills pastor at nursery
Aug. 27, 2010 in City on Page A1 A pastor and widely recognized Spokane Valley businessman, concerned that a prowler was on his property late Wednesday, got out of bed, apparently armed himself with a pistol and headed … 47
Officer shoots, kills nursery owner, pastor