Crimetracker: 8 charged with peddling laughing gas at concert

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Knoxville police arrested eight men from New York and Pennsylvania who were selling laughing gas after Tuesday's Widespread Panic concert at the Tennessee theater.

"We had undercover officers that were watching the crowd. They were actually outside after the concert and they noticed that a Yukon pulled up very quickly, there were eight individuals that jumped out of the vehicle. They grabbed some air-type tanks and they began running through the crowd filling balloons and selling them," said Darrell DeBusk, with the Knoxville Police Department.

James Allen, Julio C. Arroyo, Herix X. Gonzalez, Jeffery N. Laboy, Victor Mariano Luna-Santos, Joshua Priest, Jose Roman and Felipe Santiago each face one county of sale/exchange/delivery of an inhalant for improper purpose.

According to the warrants, officers heard the men yelling, "ice cold nitrous" before selling the balloons.

DeBusk said the balloons were going two for $5, and officers saw people huff from them and then show symptoms of inhalation intoxication.

Dr. R. Michael Green said huffing laughing gas might seem fun, but it's really dangerous.

"When you're huffing something like that, compared to being at the dentist you're getting potentially 100 percent of this gas versus a mixture. So temporarily, you could become hypoxic, which means you temporarily rob your lungs and your body and your brain of oxygen. So temporarily you could asphyxiate or collapse because of the lack of oxygen," said Dr. Green.

He said the gas is cold, so it can also cause freezing in your mouth and lungs and said if you huff it enough, it can damage your brain.

DeBusk said the men knew what they were doing and tried disguising the nitrous oxide.

"They were storing it in a fire extinguisher, in oxygen bottles, in a pack you would wear into a fire to breath with," said DeBusk.

He said James Allen was the group's ringleader and had over $1400 on him when arrested. Officers found balloons on the seven others.

The men are scheduled to appear in court June 17.

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