Nearly a dozen teens suspected of breaking into a taxidermy shop near Mead and making off with more than $27,000 worth of mounted animals last week did so to mimic a YouTube video, according to court records.
“That blew my mind,” said Dave Drury, owner of Knopp Taxidermy at 10816 N. Newport Highway. It’s been nine days since Spokane County sheriff’s deputies were called to his 12,000-square-foot warehouse on a commercial burglary call. “All that trouble, and they were going to make a YouTube video with a bunch of animals.”
A 17-year-old who turned himself in to deputies last Thursday said he and 10 other boys and girls drove to the shop with the intent to break in and steal animals to stage an online video they had watched, according to court documents. The boy also said the group planned to take a polar bear and raccoon to place in a school courtyard as a practical joke.
The mounted menagerie stolen from the business included a wolf, monkey, raccoon, zebra and boar. Investigators said the teen burglars first tried to break through a door reinforced with a steel padlock, then pried open a garage door panel to get inside. A footprint was still visible in the sawdust coating the door Wednesday afternoon.
The biggest trophy was a full-size polar bear. It was hauled about 500 feet from the shop toward a conifer forest, Drury said.
The mount was one of two Drury plans to exhibit in a display of species from North America and Africa after he converts the storage warehouse into a museum geared toward educating schoolchildren about wildlife. Elk and moose stare down visitors weaving their way through water features and crags in construction within the business, accessible by a dirt road from the highway. Murals of Mount Kilimanjaro and the rolling North American plains, painted by Drury’s wife, grace the walls.
“She’s allergic to the smells, the dander from the animals,” Drury said. “I have to open up the doors. She can only paint for three hours before she can’t breathe anymore.”
A steady stream of teenagers surrendered this week to deputies at the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center after four were arrested shortly after the break-in around 10:30 p.m. Aug. 26. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday all suspects in the case had come forward after an 11th suspect, a teenage boy, surrendered Tuesday with his parents and an attorney.
The Spokesman-Review is not naming the suspects in the case because they are not being charged as adults.
Deputies were able to recover the stolen animals, though some of the mounts were damaged. The Patas monkey, one of Drury’s prized possessions, had the neck broken in the escape and dumping of the loot. The tan and gray ground-dweller indigenous to Africa now nods lamely when pressure is applied to its forehead.
“I may have to put a motor in there,” Drury joked.
The break-in has caused only minor setbacks in Drury’s plans to open the wildlife museum sometime next year, he said. His team just received a pair of giraffes and an elephant that will take a year to get ready for display. In addition, at least $2,000 worth of damage was done to security doors on the premises, which Drury had put in after previous burglary attempts.
One boy’s father came forward to apologize for his son’s actions, Drury said. He offered restitution for the damage.
“He said he’s never been in trouble before; it threw him for a loop,” Drury said the boy’s father told him. “That’d be a hard call for a dad to make.”
All those recorded in custody by the Sheriff’s Office have been charged with second-degree burglary. Depending on the suspect’s record, a sentence could reach up to more than a year in juvenile detention. At least two of the arrested teens played high school soccer together, according to court records.
For 67-year-old Drury, who’s been in the taxidermy business in Spokane for more than 30 years, the motivation behind the break-in is hard to fathom. He doesn’t have a computer and keeps all his notes in a 39-cent spiral notebook.
“I don’t even know what YouTube is,” he said.