Spokane County’s insurance carrier brought the Creach civil case to a screeching halt last Friday, agreeing to award the family $2 million in order to settle the civil suit concerning the Spokane Valley pastor’s 2010 shooting death at the hands of a sheriff’s deputy.
The settlement, reached last Friday, came after U.S. District Judge Rosanna Peterson dismissed Spokane County and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich from the civil suit. Deputy Brian Hirzel – who fired the single shot on Aug. 25 that killed Wayne Scott Creach, a Spokane Valley pastor and owner of the Plant Farm – was still attached to the lawsuit.
However, the county’s insurance carrier, provided through the Washington Counties Risk Pool, decided to cut its losses and made the offer to settle.
The move, however, did not sit well with Knezovich, who believes Hirzel would have been exonerated at trial.
“I think it was irresponsible for the insurance company to offer such a large settlement, against the advice of Spokane County and our attorneys, prior to Judge Peterson’s ruling,” Knezovich said in a prepared statement last Friday. “Doing so only opens Spokane County and the sheriff’s office up to more unfounded lawsuits.”
Knezovich noted that Peterson dismissed himself and the county because “the plaintiffs’ claims against me and my office were unfounded.”
Earlier this year, Peterson rejected a summary judgment by Hirzel and his attorneys, paving the way for the civil case filed by the family of Creach, who sought $14 .7 million in damages from Spokane County for violating Creach’s civil rights and wrongful death.
Hirzel shot Creach on his Plant Farm property, 14208 E. Fourth Ave., after the pastor approached the deputy while the officer was parked in the plant nursery parking lot during the late-evening hours. Hirzel was on duty and in uniform, conducting a prowl check. However, he was in an unmarked patrol car and did not alert Creach of request permission.
Creach got out of bed, put on a pair of pants and slippers and armed himself with a handgun. What happened next is unclear; however, both Hirzel and the family agree the officer exited his vehicle and shot Creach.
Hirzel continues to work in Spokane Valley with the sheriff’s office, which provides law enforcement for the city.