Some answers, more questions in Creach shooting report

The report on the August 25 shooting of Scott Creach prepared by the Spokane Police Department might provide some answers but it?s also raising new questions into the deadly confrontation between Creach and Spokane County Sheriff?s Deputy Brian Hirzel.

Looking through the 720-page report it?s clear detectives wanted to know more than just what happened that night as they delved into the personal and professional histories of both Creach and Hirzel. That background sheds some light on why their interaction with each other didn?t end peacefully.

Pastor Scott Creach was a husband, father and a pastor. But the report also indicates that as a business owner he wasn’t afraid grab a loaded gun to protect his property. Between 1998 and 2010 the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office has been called to the Creach property 21 times, mostly to check on thefts and burglaries.

Several of the officers who responded to the scene the night Creach was shot remembered having contact with him and all of them said they told him not to go out at night with a loaded gun.

In fact, the deputy who first responded to Deputy Hirzel?s ?shots fired? call, Deputy Cole Speer, was called to the property in 2008 and told Creach specifically to call 911 instead of using his gun.

“Creach disagreed with me and stated he would defend his property and had the right to bear arms anytime he wanted,” Deputy Speer said in a statement to investigators.

Deputy Hirzel is an 18-year veteran of law enforcement. He got his start in 1991 in Cathedral City, California and later moved to Kootenai County before transferring to the Spokane Police Department.

In the Spokane Police Department report on the Creach shooting it was revealed this wasn?t the first time he was involved in an incident with deadly force. While serving as a police officer in Cathedral City he applied a choke hold on an individual; that person later died. Hirzel was later exonerated in the case and the Cathedral City Police Department never conducted an internal investigation to insure no departmental policies had been violated.

Hirzel was prepared for situations like the one he faced on August 25. According to the report he participated in in-service training that included ambush training where he would face someone attacking him while he was sitting in his patrol car.

“We were sitting in a police car and subject from you know one side or the other, they would vary, would shoot at you with air soft guns and it was, it was the same thing. I shot from inside the car at that time … nearly identical to this,” Hirzel told investigators.

Hirzel elaborated, telling detectives he felt extremely scared and feared for his life when he saw Creach coming up behind with a gun at his side. . ?It concerned me greatly that there’s a guy walking to me at night with a gun in his hand walking towards my car. That caused me a lot of concern especially, you know if you look at the things that on the west side, the ambush situations, that was, that caused me a lot of concern,” he said.

Beyond Hirzel?s professional history, there are some differences in statements made by deputies responding to the Plant Farm and Hirzel himself.

For example questions have been raised as to whether or not Creach could clearly see Deputy Hirzel. Deputy Hirzel had traded his marked patrol car for an unmarked vehicle during his shift, and when he pulled into the parking lot at the Plant Farm the grounds were dark. What is not clear is whether or not Creach had a spotlight, mounted on Hirzel?s patrol car, shining in his eyes as he approached the vehicle. If the spotlight was on it might have prevented him from being able to recognize that Hirzel was a uniformed sheriff’s deputy

Hirzel told detectives he did not turn his spotlight on and has no idea how it ended up turned on, however the first deputies on scene after Creach was shot all reported the spotlight being on and facing west, the same direction Creach came from as he walked towards Hirzel’s car.

Another question that?s been raised is in what hand was Creach holding his pistol? Hirzel told investigators Creach was holding the gun in his right hand before placing it in his waistband and he reached for his gun with his right hand right before he was shot. However all the deputies that responded to the scene after he was shot say they saw a flashlight near Creach’s right hand while his pistol was on the ground by his feet.

Then there?s the question as to whether or not Creach said anything to Hirzel. In every statement Imojene Creach, Scott?s wife, made to detectives she said she heard her husband yell or scream right before she heard the gunshot. However when detectives asked Hirzel if Creach made a sound after he struck him with the baton, he says, “He didn’t say anything verbal. No, there was no comments, no words, no nothing.”

The next question being raised throughout the report is the distance Creach was from Hirzel when he was shot. During his interview with investigators Hirzel has a hard time remembering how far they were apart.

At one point during one of the interviews Hirzel said, ?I remember it being about … six feet. You know but I don’t think that that would have been correct for me to have given him a baton strike and I wouldn’t have been able to do it from that far.”

In other statements Hirzel says Creach was just two to three feet away from his patrol car however deputies at the shooting scene said that Creach?s body was anywhere from six to 10 feet from the patrol car.

Those questions and discrepancies are just a few of the things that Prosecutor Steve Tucker and his team will need to resolve as they work to determine whether or not Deputy Hirzel will face any charges for Creach?s shooting.

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