Former Montesano police chief Ray Sowers is on the wrong side of the law again, this time charged with stealing 51 bottles of liquor from a Tacoma Safeway.
Sowers, 50, pleaded not guilty to second-degree theft in Pierce County Superior Court Jan. 10.
The store manager at the Highland Hills Safeway on 6th Avenue in Tacoma called police Jan. 9 when a woman reported she saw Sowers pull bottles of liquor from his pants and from under his jacket in the parking lot, then place them in his car.
The woman said Sowers “appeared to be having difficulty walking and at one point he stumbled toward the ground,” according to court documents.
The store manager reviewed surveillance video with a Tacoma Police Department officer and saw Sowers making multiple trips to the liquor aisle, where he placed numerous bottles of liquor in his coat and pants.
An officer later found Sowers about a third of a mile from the store, pushing the car into a gas station. The officer noted several bottles of liquor in plain view in the back seat, the court documents state.
After being informed of his Miranda rights, Sowers allegedly informed the officer the alcohol was not stolen, and that he got it from work.
“When the officer said that did not make much sense, the defendant responded, ‘I know,’ ” court documents state.
After the officer informed Sowers he was under arrest for second-degree theft, Sowers allegedly told the officer, “It’s not all stolen.’ “
“When asked how much of it was stolen the defendant replied, ‘None of it,’ ” according to court documents.
The stolen liquor was recovered from the car, with a total value of $1,537.92, the store reported. Two bottles of vodka also in the car were not taken from that Safeway.
Sowers was already out on bail related to a driving under the influence charge in Grays Harbor County, his second in a year. He was arrested in June in the most recent instance.
As part of his sentence for first-degree theft and second-degree identity theft in 2011, Sowers is prohibited from possessing or consuming alcohol.
His first theft case cost him his 26-year law enforcement career. Sowers joined the Montesano Police Department in 1987, rising through the ranks to become chief in 1994.
He resigned in September 2010 after a Washington State Patrol investigation determined he spent thousands of dollars of public money on home electronics, household supplies and other personal purchases. He also used a fuel card issued to another officer to fill his personal vehicles with gasoline for several months.
Sowers was sentenced to six months in jail in that case and ordered to pay $17,400 in restitution to the City of Montesano.
He posted bail and was released from Pierce County Jail on Monday.