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Cops: ‘Bobcat bandit’ stole laughing gas

A medication and laughing gas thief who fled on a snow removal vehicle was arrested early Thursday in north Spokane County, officials say.

Joseph Franklin Knapp, 30, told Deputy Dan Dutton he was working for the state when he was stopped about 1 a.m. while driving the skid steer-style Bobcat northbound on the shoulder of Highway 395, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Knapp said he'd finished moving snow near West 4th Street and Northwest Road in Deer Park, but Dutton knew the Deer Park roads were clear of snow, and that the city had its own road department.

Dutton then noticed two bottles of nitrous oxide and other medications, syringes and needles in the front loader of the Bobcat. Knapp said he found the items when he was plowing and planned to dispose of them in Clayton “so no children would find them,” according to a news released.

Dutton detained Knapp as other deputies checked the area of Deer Park and Riverside. They located a medical facility in the Riverside area that had the door torn off - Dutton suspects Knapp stole the laughing gas and medication from the facility.

The Bobcat was stolen 27 miles away at the Winco on North Nevada Street.

Sheriff's spokesman Craig Chamberlin dubbed Knapp “the bobcat bandit.”

He remains jailed on $30,000 bond for felony charges of second-degree burglary, first-degree theft and second-degree malicious mischief and a misdemeanor charge of third-degree driving while suspended.

Court records show he was sentenced in early January to seven days in jail for misdemeanor making or having burglar tools, possession of marijuana, malicious mischief personal property and two counts of theft.

Chronic DUI suspect Batty arrested again

A retired Spokane firefighter with a history of impaired driving and a conviction for vehicular homicide was arrested again Thursday after a state trooper smelled alcohol on his breath.

David W. Batty, 55, of Elk, had a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit for driving when he was stopped for speeding about 11:30 a.m. at milepost 310 on U.S. Highway 2, according to Washington State Patrol.

Batty was arrested for felony drunken driving because of a conviction in 1993 for a fatal, alcohol-related car crash on the same road.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price set Batty’s bond at $5,000 today and prohibited him from driving and from consuming alcohol.

“Apparently Mr. Batty’s had some alcohol treatment on a couple of occasions, and, regretfully, it doesn’t appear to have taken hold,” Price said. I’m sure Mr. Batty is a nice gentleman, but I’ve got some real concerns about him being out there driving a vehicle with his inability to control his alcohol consumption.”

Deputy Prosecutor George Gagnon said he wasn’t concerned that Batty was a flight risk.

“We’re more interested here in community safety,” Gagnon said. “He’s already killed one person.”

Batty was rehired by the Spokane Fire Department after serving time in prison for vehicular homicide but was on medical leave when he caused a crash in January 2007 that killed three people. He was not charged in that crash but never returned to the Fire Department.

Batty’s latest DUI conviction came after he was stopped in July 2008 and tests showed he was impaired on prescription drugs and alcohol. He was sentenced to nine months in jail in 2009 for felony drunken driving.

Batty told police on Thursday that he had two drinks early that morning and had taken four prescription medications.

His public defender, Derek Reid, said Batty is in “significant pain” because of a back injury.