Former Montesano police chief Ray Sowers says he’s been clean and sober for months now — and credits it all to being enrolled in Drug Court in Pierce County, working with judges and counselors and attending regular 12-step meetings.
“Four years ago, I lost my job and I lost my wife at the same time and my entire family fell apart,” Sowers told The Vidette last week after a hearing on a pending DUI case from last year. “I just fell into alcohol. And, really, much of my life has been a blur since then.”
Sowers admits today that he’s had an alcohol problem for years and years, stemming to even before he lost his job with the police force.
It had been a downward spiral for Sowers, whose police career ended in 2010 following first-degree theft and second-degree identity theft charges from the city of Montesano for stealing public money and using it to pay for personal expenses.
Today, he says his drinking had a lot to do with those theft charges.
After serving about six months in jail, following conviction in 2011, Sowers was convicted of a driving under the influence charge stemming from an incident in August of 2012. Then, he was arrested again on June 20, 2013 for driving under the influence again and sentenced to jail for a parole violation.
And on Jan. 10, he was arrested in Pierce County for allegedly stealing dozens of bottles of booze, stuffing them down his pants and up his coat sleeves and repeating the process multiple times at a Safeway in Tacoma.
Sowers, 50, had been accused of stealing a total of 51 bottles of liquor from a Safeway in Tacoma, valued at $1,537.
A witness spotted him in the parking lot. He was caught while pushing his out-of-gas car to a gas station.
Before he could even face charges in Pierce County Superior Court, he was found in violation of his original DUI and served a couple days in jail courtesy of Grays Harbor District Court and in violation of his theft sentencing conditions in Grays Harbor Superior Court and served 40-some days in Grays Harbor Jail before he was ultimately released, he says.
On May 15, he officially enrolled in Drug Court, court records show. Sowers said he had been offered 60 days of community service to dismiss his charge.
“But that’s not what I needed,” Sowers said. “I need help. And that’s what this will give me.”
Working with counselors and under threat of consistent, random urine analysis, Sowers says he had thrown away his liquor and committed to sobriety.
He says his memory of the incident at Safeway remains fuzzy today.
“I was out of gas and this officer comes up and I thought he was there to help me,” Sowers says. “No, he told me, he was there to arrest me for stealing liquor. I remember looking in the car and seeing all those bottles and I just didn’t remember any of that.”
Sowers says he has no idea how he stole so many bottles of liquor, how many times he came and went from the store — or just how drunk he really was.
The Drug Court program lasts a good year. If he succeeds, there will be a graduation day. Meantime, he’s trying to deal with his current DUI charge in Grays Harbor District Court.
Last week, prosecutors and Sowers’ public defender appeared to have worked out a deal to defer the charge because Sowers is finally getting the help he needs. An evaluation from counselors with the Pierce County Alliance clearly showed Sowers has a substance abuse problem and is getting treatment. The documents were just missing the required phrases necessary to qualify for a deferment. District Court Judge Thomas Copland continued the matter out until July 7. This is his second DUI in a year. The Drug Court documents state clearly that if he gets another DUI, he will be kicked out of the program immediately.
Sowers says he knows this is likely his last chance. His law enforcement career came crashing down and today he is selling cars.
“I have a support network that will help me through this,” he says. “This is it for me. … I’ve just lost everything.”