The Spokane County Sheriff's Office has identified the six officers who were involved in the fatal shooting of Army veteran Jed Zillmer in Spokane Valley on February 11.
Investigators say Zillmer, an Afghanistan combat veteran suffering from PTSD, was suicidal and led police on a high speed chase from Spokane to Coeur d'Alene and back to Spokane Valley on February 11.
The chase ended at the intersection of Sullivan and Indiana, where Zillmer got out of his vehicle and pointed a handgun at himself. Investigators say when he adjusted his bulletproof vest, deputies opened fire.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Zillmer threatened to shoot other civilians if deputies did not kill him first. The investigation shows Zillmer had two other handguns on him and several other weapons inside his vehicle.
The deputies identified by the sheriff's office as having been involved in the shooting are Brett Hubbell, Jeff Thurman, Dale Moyer, Ryan Walter, Brian Hirzel and Randy Watts.
Not all of the deputies have been formally interviewed but a check of their weapons showed bullets missing from six different magazines. The appearance that a half dozen of them simultaneously opened fire suggests they all saw the same threat at the same time.
The events that led up to Zllmer getting shot by sheriff's deputies lasted close to an hour. There was a pursuit to Coeur d' Alene and back and during that time Zillmer was on the phone telling dispatchers he would shoot civilians if it took too long for deputies to shoot him.
"The deputies on scene did the best that they could to diffuse the situation and they were put in the horrible position to have to take his life," Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said shortly after the shooting.
Several of the deputies who opened fire are also military veterans, including Randy Watts, a US Navy veteran who's been on the force for just 10 months. The deputies pleaded with Zillmer not to end his young life this way. That's when Zillmer got out, pointed a gun at himself and adjusted his bulletproof vest.
"Doing that, officers opened fire because there was some kind of movement," Knezovich explained.
Sheriff Knezovich is not able to talk with reporters again until the formal interviews with his deputies are complete. However he hopes to release an audio recording of the things Zillmer was saying to dispatchers as early as Wednesday..
Biographies of the deputies involved.
Deputy Brett Hubbell -- Hubbell is a 14-year SCSO veteran and a SWAT team leader. Hubbell is also the Sheriff's Office Patrol Procedures lead instructor. He received a Certificate of Appreciation in 2010 for his work with a bank robbery investigation.
Deputy Jeff Thurman -- Thurman is a 12-year SCSO veteran and K9 handler. He is also a sheriff's office field training officer and Emergency Vehicle Operations and Control lead instructor. Thurman also acts as a Chief Tactical Flight Officer for SCSO Air 1. He received certificates of commendation in 2011 and 2012. This was his second officer-involved shooting.
In late 2007, Thurman was taking his mother, a former fire dispatcher, on a ridealong, when he responded to a call of a suspicious car at a lower South Hill gas station. The driver stayed inside the vehicle when officers responded but the passenger, convicted felon Jason Mann, bolt from the vehicle and ran away. Thurman tracked Mann down on foot and, when Mann pointed a handgun at him and fired at him, Thurman returned fire, wounding him. Mann survived his injuries and was later convicted in 2008 of shooting at Thurman.
Deputy Dale Moyer -- Moyer is a seven-year SCSO veteran and SWAT team member. Moyer received a life saving award for helping a suicidal femal in Kootenai County. He also received the Sheriff's Star Award in 2011.
Deputy Ryan Walter -- Walter is a seven-year SCSO veteran and SWAT team member. He's received numerous commendations within the department and had two years of law enforcement experience prior to joining the sheriff's office.
Deputy Brian Hirzel -- Hirzel is a five-year SCSO veteran and has 17 years of law enforcement experience.
Hirzel was the deputy involved in the fatal shooting of 74-year-old Pastor Scott Creach in August of 2010 outside of Creach's business, The Plant Farm, in Spokane Valley. Hirzel was doing a prowl check and was parked on the business' property. Creach approached Hirzel's patrol car with a handgun in his waistband, there was a confrontation between the two men and Hirzel shot Creach, who succumbed to his wounds.
Hirzel was later cleared of any wrongdoing. Creach's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hirzel and Sheriff Knezovich, which was settled last July for $2 Million.
On Tuesday Alan Creach, Scott's son, said he was sorry for Zillmer's family.
"Young men make mistakes, they say things they shouldn't say they get upset, but we've got to find a way to deal with, particularly veterans ... good people when they're upset other than what happened here," he said.
Creach says he's doesn't have enough information to comment on this latest shooting but is still pushing for more training that teaches deputies how to deescalate even armed standoffs.
"I just wish we could come back and have different training, different methods of handling these kinds of conflicts. Whether that deals with what happened on August 25th, 2010 ... I don't want to comment on that but I'm not grinding an ax with Brian Hirzel. He's an officer that's operating as he's been trained," Creach said.
Deputy Randy Watts -- Watts has been with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office for 10 months. Prior to joining the sheriff's office, Watts served in the U.S. Navy, where he served as a helicopter systems operator, rescue swimmer and was a Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) instructor with the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.