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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

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.

Public safety news from the Inland Northwest and beyond.