Police issue warning after multiple huffing incidents over weekend

Updated: Jun. 27, 2018 at 6:33 PM CDT
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The department is also asking for the public's help in identifying suspicious purchases of...
The department is also asking for the public's help in identifying suspicious purchases of these chemicals. (Source: KAIT)
In 2017, Batesville police found a man dead with a can of air duster still in his hand....
In 2017, Batesville police found a man dead with a can of air duster still in his hand. (Source: KAIT)

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Huffing air duster and other chemicals is a problem many police departments deal with and Batesville police have seen several cases recently.

"We had three over the past weekend on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday that were all obvious huffing cases of intoxicated individuals that we dealt with and arrested," Batesville Police Chief Alan Cockrill said.

The department posted a warning on their Facebook page about the possible consequences of huffing substances after working these cases.

On Friday, police were called after a citizen reported seeing a man huffing air duster and driving erratically near the intersection of Main Street and White Drive.

The suspect, 34-year-old Patrick Toney, told police he was not huffing air duster but he had just bought some from Walmart to clean his vehicle.

A K-9 was brought in to do an exterior sniff of the car. The K-9 alerted near the rear driver side bumper of the vehicle.

Officers searched the car and found "numerous" empty air duster cans in a Walmart bag in the trunk and another pack that had just been opened in the backseat, according to the incident report.

Toney was charged with breathing, inhaling, or drinking certain intoxicating compounds, which is a misdemeanor.

Around 12:45 a.m. Saturday, police were called after a woman crashed into another vehicle in the White River Medical Center parking lot and left the scene.

Officers quickly caught up with 52-year-old Kelly Bell, who was driving the damaged vehicle.

Bell claimed she was trying to find someone to tell about the accident.

While speaking with her, Officer Shane Hightower saw a can of air duster lying on top of luggage in the back seat.

The can did have condensation on it, like it had been recently used, and was cold to the touch, according to the officer's statement in the incident report.

Bell, at first, denied but later admitted to huffing the air duster before the crash.

Bell was charged with breathing, inhaling, or drinking certain intoxicating compounds; leaving the scene of an accident; no vehicle insurance; and driving on a suspended license.

On Sunday, an officer was dispatched to Walmart after an off-duty officer there was told a teenager was huffing a substance in the bathroom.

Sgt. Rick Davis reportedly said the 13-year-old boy was acting very erratically and huffed more air duster in front of him.

A Walmart employee also told police that people had witnessed the teen foaming from the mouth and yelling.

The juvenile told police that "his friend told him it makes you feel good so he wanted to try it," according to the incident report.

The teen was also cited for breathing, inhaling, or drinking certain intoxicating compounds and released to his guardian.

There was also a recent death in the city from huffing air duster.

Batesville police found a man dead at his home in November with a can of air duster still in his hand.

Chief Cockrill said huffing is just as dangerous as any other substance abuse.

The biggest difference is that it can be easily bought in stores.

"The problem with this particular issue of huffing is you can buy it and you don't have an age limit," Cockrill said. "Anybody can buy spray paint. Anybody can buy air duster. There's no age limit."

The chief said the community members and store employees can help police catch people who intend to use these chemicals for illegal purposes.

"The Batesville Police Department, we may go buy five cans," Cockrill said. "But an individual coming in off the street twice a week going to Walmart or going to the dollar store and buying every can of air duster. That's unusual and normally somebody sees it. Hey, call us and let's save a life instead of us working a death."

You can call the police department at 870-569-8111 to report any unusual purchasing of these products.

Cockrill noted that the more people huff a substance, the more likely they are to die, have serious and lasting injuries, or hurt themselves or someone else.

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