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The original item was published from 1/21/2020 2:16:01 PM to 2/5/2020 12:00:01 AM.

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Sheriff's Office

Posted on: January 21, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Medical Lake Vehicle Prowling Suspect Arrested


Medical Lake Vehicle Prowling Suspect Arrested


Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Deputies working the area in and around Medical Lake arrested a suspect believed to have been prowling cars in the area.  The suspect, who states he’s transient, has a history of this type of criminal activity.       

On January 13, 2020, at approximately 4:10 a.m., Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Garrett Spencer noticed a male walking north on Broad from Grace.  With the heavy snow, poor visibility and slick roads, Deputy Spencer contacted the male, later identified as 27-year-old Joseph B. Thornton, for a pedestrian violation.   

Thornton verbally identified himself and stated he was coming from a friend’s home whom he declined to identify.  When asked why he didn’t appear to be dressed appropriately for the snow and cold temperatures, Thornton said he was locked out of his friend’s home and couldn’t get to his clothing. 

A check of Thornton’s name revealed a history of vehicle prowling, theft, and trespassing type crimes.

Thornton was given a verbal warning for the pedestrian violation and released. 

Mindful of the recent vehicle prowlings reported in the Medical Lake area, Deputy Spencer asked Deputy Christopher Gunter, who had arrived to assist, to keep watch of Thornton as he continued on his way. 

Deputy Spencer began to backtrack, easily following Thornton’s footprints in the fresh snow.  Thornton’s footprints lead to several locations within approximately ½ mile of the contact.  His tracks typically went to the doors on the opposite of the home, giving the impression he was using the vehicle to shield him from view.  Deputy Spencer also noticed the snow on the door handles the footprints approached were void of snow, giving the appearance, the doors had been attempted to be opened. 

After losing Thornton’s footprints in an apartment complex, Deputy Spencer notified Deputy Gunter that he had reasonable suspicion Thornton was attempting to break into vehicles and requested Thornton be detained.

Deputy Spencer returned and contacted Thornton, Deputy Gunter, and Deputy Chris Giacomini.

Deputy Spencer explained he had followed Thornton’s footprints and how they led to eight vehicles, and it appeared Thornton had attempted to make entry.  Thornton just shook his head.

Thornton’s criminal history showed convictions for felony Vehicle Prowling 2nd Degree (due to a third or subsequent misdemeanor convictions) and multiple misdemeanor convictions for Vehicle Prowling 2nd Degree, Theft, and Criminal Trespass 2nd Degree.    

Deputy Spencer was able to contact an owner of one of the vehicles it appeared Thornton had attempted to enter while parked in her private driveway.  She stated she didn’t know Thornton, he did not have permission to be on her property, and she wanted to pursue charges.    

Deputy Spencer contacted Thornton and advised him he was under arrest for Criminal Trespass 2nd Degree and attempted Vehicle Prowling 2nd Degree.  Thornton stated it didn’t matter because he would “get out tomorrow because this was Spokane.”  Thornton was advised of his rights, and he refused to answer questions.

Thornton was transported to the Spokane County Jail.  While at the jail, Deputy Spencer contacted Deputy Ryan Walter, who was assigned to Medical Lake and advised him of the information, arrest, and the potential that additional victims may call to report similar incidents.  During this conversation, Deputy Spencer explained Thornton didn’t really seem to care that he was being arrested, and he planned to make note of Thornton’s comments in his report to which Thornton stated, “Screw the judge.”

Thornton was booked into jail for misdemeanor charges of Criminal Trespass 2nd Degree and attempted Vehicle Prowling 2nd Degree.


On January 17, 2020, at approximately 4:15 a.m., Deputy Spencer was dispatched to the Petro Station located at 10510 W. Aero Rd. for the report of a “person bothering.”  The reporting person advised an unidentified male was asleep in the television room and had needles in his pocket.            

Deputy Spencer contacted the male and recognized him as 27-year-old Joseph B. Thornton.  A check of Thornton’s name revealed an active Cheney Municipal Court warrant for Vehicle Prowling 2nd Degree. 

After confirming the warrant for Thornton’s arrest was valid, Deputy Spencer began to place him in handcuffs.  Thornton started yelling vulgar and derogatory comments toward the female employee. 

At the employee’s request, Thornton was advised he was trespassed from the location, and if he returned, he would be arrested. 

Thornton was transported and booked into the Spokane County Jail for the warrant.  At this time, Thornton remains in custody after his first appearance was continued until today due to illness.


We continue to ask residents of Medical Lake, and all of Spokane County, to remain vigilant and to report criminal/suspicious activity.  Please remove valuables from your vehicles while they are unattended and remember to lock your doors/windows to detour criminals who are out roaming our streets, looking for the next opportunity to steal your property.            



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