Prosecutor Receives Creach Shooting Investigation Report
In a document stretching more than 600 pages, the Spokane Police Department filed its report to the prosecutor?s office on the Scott Creach officer-involved shooting investigation Thursday afternoon.
That report includes everything from a full climatology report with the stages of the moon that night to e-mails exchanged between Spokane County Sheriff?s Deputy Brian Hirzel and the investigators after the shooting as well as interviews Hirzel had with detectives wherein he details what happened the night he shot Scott Creach.
It?s that information that Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker will now use to determine if the shooting was justified.
The night of August 25 started out as an ordinary Wednesday night. For Deputy Hirzel, the reports show that he started his shift like any other with roll call around 5:30 p.m. As he was starting his shift, Scott Creach was eating dinner with his wife Imojene and getting ready to attend church.
About 6 hours later after what had been a night of a handful of traffic and collision calls for Hirzel the night turned into something less ordinary when Hirzel, according to reports, parked his unmarked patrol car in the parking lot of the Plant Farm.
In one of three interviews Hirzel did with investigators he said he was writing a report on a collision he had investigated earlier in the evening when he saw Creach walking towards his car from behind him. Hirzel said that Creach had a gun ? later identified as a Colt M1911 .45 semi-automatic pistol ? at his side and Hirzel immediately believed he was in imminent danger.
Still seated in his patrol car Hirzel pulled out his service weapon and pointed it at Creach. Hirzel told detectives he told Creach in an assertive voice five or six times to drop the gun but Creach responded by saying “I don’t have to” because he had things stolen in the past and that he was sorry.
Seconds later Creach started to back up, putting the gun in his waist band. Hirzel got out of the car and that is when he says he drew his baton with his left hand and executed a backhanded strike against the outside of Creach?s left knee with the baton.
But in the report filed to the prosecutor?s office, WSP investigators conducted numerous tests to confirm whether or not Hirzel had executed a baton strike; in fact a large part of the investigation focused on whether or not Hirzel even hit Creach with the baton like he says he did.
No forensic evidence could be found of a baton strike either on Hirzel?s baton or on Creach?s body.
Continuing on that line of the investigation detectives focused in on why the use of non-lethal force was not applied by Hirzel against Creach.
A number of fellow officers were interviewed and many confirmed seeing him carry his baton on his duty belt but could not remember seeing Hirzel carrying his Taser with him.
Hirzel told investigators that in a deadly force situation he wouldn?t use a Taser because it wouldn?t take effect immediately and that the effects would only last a few moments before the person would regain mobility.
The night of the shooting Hirzel?s Taser was found still sitting in his patrol car un-used.
Hirzel was asked why he didn?t use Mace against Creach; Hirzel told detectives that he had found that some people were not affected when Mace was used against them and that he was concerned about cross-contamination.
During interviews investigators asked Hirzel why he waited so long to call for backup. Hirzel responded that he viewed Creach as a direct threat – calling him angry and defiant – and says he couldn’t call for back up when he initially saw Creach without taking his hand off the gun.
As for what he was feeling the night of the shooting, Hirzel described himself as being in ?fear? and referred to being in his patrol car as being in a ?death coffin.? When asked about his thought processes, what was going through his mind as Creach approached his patrol car, Hirzel told investigators that he thought ?this guy?s going to kill me ? he?s going to shoot me? adding that he saw no reason for Creach to have his pistol except to shoot him.
“When I saw his hand go behind his back and come out with a gun, or the grip of the gun that I saw there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that he was going to shoot me,” Hirzel told detectives.
Hirzel, an 18-year veteran of law enforcement, knew how to deal with situations like the one he faced on August 25. In fact, during his last in-service training he was involved in a training scenario where he was in his patrol car and a role-player approaches his car and initiates an ambush against him using airsoft guns for training purposes.
In training, Hirzel returned fire from his patrol car against the role-player; regarding the August 25 shooting Hirzel told detectives while he did draw his weapon from inside his patrol car on Creach he did not fire at him from inside his vehicle.
His statement was corroborated by autopsy reports which indicate that the bullet entered Creach?s chest from left to right at a slightly downward angle, damaging the heart, right lung and his kidney which couldn?t have happened if he had fired upward toward Creach from a seated position inside his patrol car.
The one significant difference between the ambush training Hirzel received and the night of August 25 was that in training he had no time to interact with the shooter. On August 25, computer and radio logs show that there was anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes during which Hirzel interacted with Creach.
RELATED DOCUMENT: Initial Interview with Deputy Brian Hirzel