Last Friday, Spokane Valley Police Officer Brian Hirzel – nine days after he shot and killed Wayne Scott Creach in the pastor’s Plant Farm parking lot -- finally met with Spokane Police major crimes detectives.
As of the middle of this week, more facts have come forward – including the revelation Monday that Creach had been reportedly reaching into his waistband for his gun.
Hirzel – who had just returned from a vacation authorized by his boss, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, which delayed questioning by over a week – agreed to a recorded interview and was said to have been “fully cooperative with the investigators, answering all of their questions,” said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.
SPD is handling the investigation under a “critical incident protocol” with the sheriff’s office, where one jurisdiction investigates the other in cases of officer-involved shootings.
During the four-hour interview, Hirzel told detectives he was in the neighborhood of 14200 E. Fourth on the night of Aug. 25, responding to a request from a neighbor earlier in the day to conduct a prowl check. Hirzel said he chose the large parking lot of the Plant Farm, 14208 E. Fourth, because it allowed him to scan the area “safely and also for the proximity to the address where the prowl check was first requested,” DeRuwe said.
Hirzel, who had backed his unmarked car into the gravel lot and was working on his computer, said he saw Creach approaching his vehicle from a distance of approximately 30 feet and that “Mr. Creach had a firearm in his hand.”
Hirzel’s statement and evidence collected at the scene indicated that there was a “close encounter between the officer and Mr. Creach,” DeRuwe said.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that after noticing Creach had a gun and while still sitting in the patrol car, Hirzel identified himself as a police officer, drew his gun and pointed it at the pastor. He then ordered Creach to drop the weapon several times.
“Mr. Creach refused to comply and continued walking towards the deputy,” DeRuwe stated. “At one point, Mr. Creach mentioned he had had things stolen in the past.”
When Creach got within three feet of the deputy driver’s door, the deputy reportedly continued to order him to back away and drop the gun. Creach then backed up and put the gun in his waistband.
The deputy then got out of the car, at which Creach reportedly refused commands to drop to the ground. The deputy then struck Creach in the knee with his baton. Creach buckled, but did not fall. He then, according to police, reached for the gun.
That’s when Hirzel fired a single shot to the chest that ended Creach’s life.
During the time Hirzel was on vacation, DeRuwe said “investigators were diligently compiling the evidence and looking into all elements of the incident.”
The investigation is expected to conclude by the end of this week. Once finished, DeRuwe said the case file will be sent to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office to determine if there is criminal misconduct or a justifiable homicide.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also monitoring the case, she said.
Police say they have been in contact with the family, even if public information appears to have come out slowly.
“Investigators have been in touch with members of the Creach family on a regular basis,” DeRuwe added. “Family members have been kept informed without jeopardizing the case and have been given access to investigators’ cell phone numbers.”
The next stage of the investigation will include compiling background information on Creach as well as Hirzel, comparing physical evidence with witness statements and forensic testing.
The case will be submitted to the prosecutor’s office by Sept. 13 at the earliest, DeRuwe added.