Friday, January 30, 2015

A roundup of four years of coverage of now-fired Deputy Brian Hirzel

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 6:41 AM

click to enlarge A roundup of four years of coverage of now-fired Deputy Brian Hirzel
Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Hirzel
Last week, Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Hirzel was fired for improper personal use of county-owned vehicles, the Sheriff's office announced Wedneday. He had been disciplined for similar issues last year.

But most in Spokane County know Hirzel for different reasons — he's been involved in two separate officer involved shootings. The first was on Aug. 25, 2010, when Hirzel, responding in an unmarked patrol car to a vehicle prowling report, confronted Pastor Wayne "Scott" Creach. In a recorded statement, Hirzel claimed Creach had a gun and refused to drop it or get on the ground. After Hirzel hit Creach in the knee with his baton, he said, Creach reached for a gun and Hirzel shot him. 

It took longer than the required 72 hours for the Sheriff's office to release Hirzel's name.

But it was almost a full five days before he was identified as the shooter and it was made public only after questions were raised about why officials were slow to provide details of the fatal encounter.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich fumed over the media leaks concerning the incident. Sheriff's spokesman Dave Reagan inflamed matters when he said, of the slain pastor's son, "I’ve never seen a non-witness be treated so much like an eyewitness. He’s looking at adding zeroes to his check.”

For Prosecutor Steve Tucker, the Hirzel question became a key issue in his 2010 reelection campaign. 
If ever there were a lose-lose choice for Prosecutor Steve Tucker, it is deciding the fate of Brian Hirzel, the deputy who shot and killed an elderly Spokane Valley pastor in August.

If Tucker charges Hirzel with a crime, he risks losing the support of cops and law-and-order types right before the election. If he rules Hirzel did nothing wrong in shooting 74-year-old Wayne Scott Creach, Tucker may add to suspicions that he's too cozy with police and won't hold them accountable.

For months, Creach's family waited for an answer.
These are all sideshows, Alan Creach says, and they distract from his family’s central question: What happened to our dad?

“I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask this family to sit around and wait until Tucker rules,” he says. “I don’t think it’s fair to ask the [Otto] Zehm family to sit around and wait until Tucker rules. Because Tucker hasn’t ruled yet.”

It was only after the election, on Jan. 2011, that Tucker ruled there was no evidence of a crime. 
Because the deputy involved, Brian Hirzel (pictured), had indicated he feared for his life before shooting Wayne Scott Creach, and because there were no other witnesses to the shooting, Tucker had said in recent interviews that he had few options when considering charges. In a press release issued earlier today, he cited the state's criminal code: “A public officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable.”
Tucker broke the news personally to a devastated Creach family. 

But unanswered questions continued to loom, as Rep. Matt Shea proposed a bill that would have restricted unmarked law enforcement vehicles on private property.

In 2013, the county's insurance company awarded a $2 million settlement to Creach’s family. 

Last year, Hirzel's name surfaced again, as one of six deputies who shot and killed Jedadiah Zillmer, a 23-year-old Army veteran

Investigators say Zillmer armed himself with multiple weapons and donned a ballistic vest amid a pursuit to Coeur d'Alene and back to Spokane Valley on Feb. 11. Once stopped by authorities, Zillmer allegedly made a threatening move with a firearm and was killed by deputy fire, officials say.

According to his LinkedIn page, Hirzel now owns a private investigation business

Tags: ,

Unity in the Community @ Riverfront Park

Sat., Aug. 20, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • or

About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...