Missoula Community Helps Find Allegedly Stolen Dog

Erika Spaulding and her dog Onyx. 

MISSOULA - It was Erika Spaulding's worst nightmare.

"I came outside and I stood in this empty parking space and said 'I parked here. Oh my gosh, someone stole my car,'" Erika Spaulding said. 

She says she left her 5-year-old black lab inside her 2016 silver Jeep Compass with her air conditioning running while she ran inside City Brew to get coffee with a friend.

"My initial thought was Onyx," Spaulding said. "The car doesn't matter, that's replaceable."

She immediately reported her stolen car and dog, and started sharing Onyx's photo on Facebook. Just hours later she was contacted by a woman's mom who saw her Facebook post. She said she had the dog in Ronan. 

While driving northbound on Highway 93 to get Onyx, Spaulding saw her car. 

"After 11 cop cars passed and we pulled over for what looked like a high speed chase," Spaulding said. "We confirmed that it was my vehicle that passed us on the way to find Onyx."

Abby English was at the Gray Wolf Peak Casino when she says Vanvalin ran inside. 

"Cops were already there when the gunshot went off. We think he fired into the ceiling," English said.

She adds everyone in the casino funneled out of the building through one exit. 

"We hid behind some trash cans for a little bit until more police showed up," English said. "It's something that you never think of, that you would never be in this situation of someone coming in and being an active shooter."

Spaulding adds her Facebook post of Onyx was shared over 7,000 times by people from all over the Pacific Northwest, and while her car is in police custody until further notice, but she's grateful for the Missoula Community for helping find her best friend. 

Police arrested 29-year-old Matthew Vanvalin for stealing Spaulding's vehicle and leading them on a chase up and down Highway 93.

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