Embattled former police chief accused in liquor theft

TACOMA, Wash. -- A former police chief with a troubling history is once again finding himself on the wrong side of the law.

Ray Sowers is the one-time chief of Montesano who is accused of stealing 51 bottles of alcohol from a Tacoma Safeway store last Thursday.

The change in state law put hard liquor in the supermarkets right out there for all to see, and according to police it was ripe for the picking.

Court documents say Safeway employees didn't see the suspect make several trips with the bottles hidden in his jacket and pants to and from the parking lot. But, when he stumbled and almost fell, a shopper took notice.

"Then she watched as he removed bottles of alcohol from under his jacket and inside his pants and placed them inside the backseat of his car," said Loretta Cool with the Tacoma Police Department.

The customer got the license plate and Sowers was arrested a few blocks away pushing his car into a gas station. He's since been released from jail.

The charges of theft come on the heels of two DUIs and a conviction for stealing thousands of dollars from the city of Montesano, where he resigned in 2010.

"I can't imagine what would drive him to need 51 bottles of liquor to start with," said Sowers' neighbor Cristina Bymers-Clure. "It's absolutely embarrassing to know that you were there to stop the same people that do that."

Cool is just as surprised to see a once high profile police official facing these accusations.

"I feel it's a very disheartening situation that you can have such a job of high esteem to be a police chief," she said. "And to fall this far to be stealing alcohol from a store and to be obviously drunk at ten in the morning. I hope he gets the help that he needs."

The Grays Harbor County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said Sowers may have to return to face a judge if it's deemed that he violated the terms of his release on the previous charges which prohibited him from possessing alcohol.