Help sought identifying Pierce County liquor thieves

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Police investigating a string of liquor thefts are asking for the public's help identifying booze-stealing bandits caught on surveillance camera.

A security camera captured a clear shot of the two thieves as they walked into Beyond the Bottle on Jan. 7. Another camera got a very good look at the men as they took the stolen bottles to the front counter, tried to distract the clerk with a question then ran off with 14 bottles.

"They know one clerk is on duty," said Puyallup Police Capt. Scott Engle. "They take advantage of that scenario, select their items and then they flee."

"It's almost $800, $700 of liquor in two minutes that disappeared," said Beyond the Bottle owner Satbir Gill.

Gill hopes the surveillance video is enough to help police find the thieves, whom detectives believe may be responsible for at least 10 other liquor robberies throughout Pierce County.

In the most recent incident, investigators say the men pulled off their heist in the early afternoon while other customers were in the store.

The thieves picked up shopping baskets near the entrance and casually filled them as if they were shopping, never uttering a threatening word.

The owner is relieved nobody got hurt.

"We were fortunate," said Gill. "We don't know if they had weapons, but at least they didn't pull them out. So our employee, she was at least safe."

Police are tracking a dramatic increase in liquor thefts since voters approved privatization.

Customers like James Hayes understand why criminals are tempted.

"You can run, jump and go, get $50 or $100 (worth of booze). You know, that's worth it to a lot of people," Hayes said.

Anyone with information on the men's identity or whereabouts is urged to call police immediately.