Call it the case of the finger-licking felony.
Spokane County deputies arrested a man early Sunday after he was found stuck inside a walk-in cooler at the Longhorn Barbecue restaurant in Airway Heights.
Brad Vigil, 37, of Spangle, was shivering cold and covered in the Longhorn’s special sauce when he was taken into custody, investigators said.
Restaurant employees said he had gnawed on several racks of leftover ribs while he was stuck in the 12-foot-by-8-foot cooler.
“They were probably still warm, so he didn’t suffer there,” said Jane Lehnertz, whose husband owns the restaurant. “He had beer in there, too, so he could have had a really good night.”
Instead, Vigil got a ride to jail, where he was booked on suspicion of second-degree burglary.
Longhorn workers had spotted him in the restaurant’s kitchen Saturday night but thought he had run away. About midnight, they closed up and went home.
But a cook had a feeling something wasn’t right and went back about 12:30 a.m. to take one more look around, deputies said. When he opened the cooler and saw Vigil sitting inside, the unidentified employee simply closed the door and called 911.
“It appeared he was simply waiting for an employee to open the door so he could get out,” sheriff’s spokesman Dave Reagan said in a statement.
The cooler door actually can be opened from the inside, Lehnertz said. “He just didn’t, or he didn’t push hard enough.”
Deputies drove Vigil to a local hospital to be checked out, then took him to jail.
The Longhorn staff threw away nearly $700 worth of food stored in the cooler, Lehnertz said.
“We destroyed the food because we didn’t know what he did to the food that was in there,” she said. “We’d rather be safe than sorry.”