Missoula police were called out to the Bob Ward’s Sports and Outdoors store on Paxson on Thursday afternoon, September 6, after store employees reported that a man had tried to steal items before attacking staff members with a can of bear spray. Missoula Police Spokesman Travis Welsh says a transient by the name of Jeffery Catterlin was arrested.

"According to the reports, employees observed Mr. Catterlin enter a changing room with several items of clothing on hangers and when he came out he was only carrying one of those items and there were empty hangers left in the changing room, leading them to believe he was actually wearing the clothing items," Welsh said. "He was then seen grabbing the can of bear spray as as well as other items before attempting to leave."

Catterlin passed the register and headed for the front door. According to eyewitnesses, he launched an attack when employees questioned him about the stolen merchandise, but it appears his attack wasn't very well planned out.

"He produced a can of bear spray and pointed it back over his shoulder and sprayed the employees, apparently in an attempt to get away. It was later discovered though, that the spray that he had used, which he had picked up in the store was like a training can or a display can and supposedly inert, but some employees did complain later of skin irritation."

The bear spray attack turned what would have likely been a misdemeanor theft charge into a Felony Robbery charge.

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