The majority of the six Spokane County sheriff’s deputies who fired their guns at a despondent and armed Afghanistan war veteran following a highway chase have been investigated in other cases for using violent force.
Jedadiah Zillmer, 23, died of multiple gunshot wounds – the sixth person killed by law enforcement officers in Spokane County since January 2013.The sheriff’s office Tuesday named the deputies who shot at Zillmer, who called 911 dispatchers and said he wanted to die in a police shootout, according to court records. He wore a bulletproof vest and was armed with three guns when he was shot and killed.
A multiagency task force, led by the Spokane Police Department, is investigating the incident.
The deputies who fired their guns include Deputy Brian Hirzel, who shot and killed 74-year-old preacher Wayne Scott Creach in August 2010 outside Creach’s Spokane Valley home and business.
The high-profile shooting led to a lawsuit by the Creach family that Spokane County settled for $2 million last year.
Hirzel did not face criminal charges after a lengthy investigation. Hirzel is a five-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office and served in Kootenai County before being hired in 2008.
Creach carried a gun when he approached Hirzel’s unmarked patrol car. The deputy was investigating prowling calls in the neighborhood and told Creach to drop the weapon. A disagreement followed and Hirzel ended up shooting Creach once in the chest, according to court documents.
Though the county settled the lawsuit, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said he would have preferred a trial.
Deputy Jeff Thurman, a field training officer with the Sheriff’s Office, also fired during the Zillmer confrontation.
A civil suit against Thurman alleging excessive force for using a stun gun after a car chase in 2011 was settled out of court, according to records.
Thurman was placed on administrative leave in a different case in 2004 after firing at a 19-year-old Spokane Valley man who answered the door with a shotgun. The man was suspected of making harassing phone calls.
Thurman handles Laslo, one of the office’s police dogs, and received the National Tactical Flight Officer of the Year award in 2013 from the Airborne Law Enforcement Association for his helicopter piloting, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputy Dale Moyer, an Army veteran and decorated member of the SWAT team, was on the losing end of a civil lawsuit wrapped up in 2012. The county was ordered to pay $300,000 to an elderly couple after Moyer entered the wrong license plate number into his computer and pulled them over on suspicion of vehicle theft. A lawsuit filed by the couple claimed Moyer charged and tackled the man, who was confused by Moyer’s commands.
Moyer received the Sheriff’s Star award for professionalism in 2011 and a lifesaving award for his work with a suicidal woman in Kootenai County, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputy Ryan Walter, a seven-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, was one of two officers who fired upon 65-year-old Donald Lafavor, who answered his apartment door after a domestic violence complaint armed with a revolver in December 2009. Lafavor was later found guilty of second-degree assault.
Walter has received 10 internal letters commending his work with the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies Brett Hubbell, a SWAT team leader, and Randy Watts, a Navy veteran deputized 10 months ago, were the other two deputies named in the Zillmer shooting.
Hubbell received a 2010 award for his work in a bank robbery investigation and is the lead instructor for patrol procedures. Watts served as a search-and-rescue swimmer with the Navy, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Investigators filed a search warrant last week to inspect Zillmer’s car and phone records.
Zillmer attempted to remove his vest when deputies stopped him and ignored requests to drop his weapon, according to the warrant.
The Lewis and Clark High School graduate lost part of his toe after a firefight in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in February 2011. He had been denied disability benefits by the Army, according to a federal lawsuit he filed with several other veterans.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.