Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sheriff: Review panels find fatal shooting of pastor to be justified

Posted on Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 1:37 PM

The fatal shooting of an elderly pastor by a Spokane County Sheriff's deputy last summer has been determined to be reasonable and justified, according to two internal Sheriff's Office review panels.

In a news release Wednesday, the Sheriff's office says that a Deadly Force Review Board and a Citizen's Advisory Board each has concluded in recent months that Deputy Brian Hirzel was justified in his use of force in a late-night encounter Aug. 25 that resulted in the shooting death of Wayne Scott Creach.

The 74-year-old Creach, a Baptist pastor and owner of the plant nursery where Hirzel had parked his unmarked patrol car, had gone outside in his slippers to check on what he considered to be a suspicious vehicle in the lot outside his bedroom. Creach carried a flashlight and a handgun.

Prosecutor Steve Tucker announced on Jan. 21, that a review by his office found there was no malice and no criminal intent in the shooting.

The internal review is ongoing, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich indicates in the press release, with a final determination due by the end of May. But two of the elements of his internal review were made public today. The Deadly Force Review Board, made up of sheriff's office use-of-force experts, unanimously found Hirzel's actions were reasonable, based on the policies of the sheriff's office.

The 12-member Citizen's Advisory Board reviewed the incident and the investigation, the news release says. The advisory board met with investigators from the Spokane Police Department (which handled the matter) and with use-of-force experts on March 14. In an April 11 letter to Knezovich, board members "unanimously found the investigation was handled in an appropriate, professional and thorough manner."

The letter also says, "We felt that though this was a tragic incident, Sheriff's Deputy Brian Hirzel acted in a reasonable manner based on our review of the case files."

The news release states that a final internal review of the matter is underway, based on concerns raised by the Creach family. Hirzel remains on desk duty. The Creaches are pursuing legislative action to fix issues they say contributed to their father's death — can police use unmarked cars on patrol, can police park on private property?

Knezovich has said unmarked patrol cruisers are legal, they are not the same as undercover cars. And business parking lots open to the street are also legal spaces for police to park.

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