A man suspected of a brazen theft of a Salvation Army red kettle from a bell ringer in Post Falls was arrested Wednesday in Spokane.
Meanwhile, Spokane police said they received a new report of a stolen Salvation Army kettle. That theft occurred Tuesday at the Fred Meyer, 12120 N. Division St. Other details about the incident weren’t available Wednesday.
The theft at Fred Meyer makes three reported thefts of a Salvation Army red kettle in four days in the Inland Northwest. Even before the thefts, the annual kettle campaigns in Spokane and Kootenai counties were off pace from last year, Salvation Army officials said.
Organization officials also have stressed that even one kettle theft is unusual.
Christy Markham, development director of the Salvation Army Kroc Center, which serves Kootenai County, said she had never heard of any local kettle thefts in the 10 years she’s worked at the Salvation Army.
On Saturday, a man stole a kettle from a bell ringer at the Rosauers, 2610 E. 29th Ave. in Spokane.
The kettle has not been located and no arrests have been made.
On Tuesday, a man drove by a bell ringer at the Super 1 Foods, 805 E. Polston Ave., in Post Falls in a stolen car and nabbed the kettle while reaching out the driver’s window. Although bell ringers are taught by Salvation Army officials not to fight for a kettle, the bell ringer reached through the window in an attempt to stop the driver. Markham said that someone working at a Christmas tree sales lot nearby assisted the bell ringer, but the thief got away.
“This was literally his first bell-ringing experience,” Markham said. “It was his gut reaction, just to protect what he was doing.”
Markham said the bell ringer has said he’s eager to work more “to make up for what was lost.”
After the car fled Super 1, there was a chaotic chase in Post Falls during which police recovered the kettle. Police believe the thief escaped the area by stealing a Jeep Cherokee from the White House Grill’s parking lot.
Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Thurman spotted the stolen Jeep about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at a gas station at Thor Street and Third Avenue in Spokane, said Deputy Mark Gregory in a news release.
When Thurman pulled into the station, Ezariah W. Lingafelter, 24, jumped into the Jeep and fled, heading the wrong way on Third Avenue to the Fred Meyer parking lot across the street. The chase continued with Lingafelter violating several traffic laws, Gregory said. With more deputies on the chase, the Jeep was stopped in a dirt lot in the 4600 block of East Fourth.
When Lingafelter did not obey commands at the scene, K-9 Laslo was deployed, Gregory said. Inside the Jeep, deputies found a large amount of cash and a pipe with suspected methamphetamine in it.
Lingafelter was booked into the Spokane County Jail on seven charges, including drug-related counts, driving a stolen vehicle and obstructing an officer.
Markham said the Salvation Army hadn’t gotten the kettle from Super 1 back by Wednesday afternoon, but that a woman who wanted to remain anonymous donated $250 in response to hearing about the theft.
“She said it had broken her heart to hear about it,” Markham said. “She made an amazing gift to replace what would have been in the kettle.”
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