SpecOps Colonel Arrested in Police Standoff Was Subject of Toxic Command Climate Investigation

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Col. Owen G. Ray
Col. Owen G. Ray, outgoing commander, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), stands at attention during the 1st SFG (A) change of command ceremony July 9, 2020, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. (U.S. Army/Pfc. Gaozong Lee)

A Green Beret colonel who was arrested after an armed standoff with police in late December was also the subject of an Inspector General complaint alleging he was abusive to his staff at work.

Army Col. Owen G. Ray was released from custody Monday on $1 million bail, according to the Pierce County jail website, after being arrested Dec. 27 on charges ranging from kidnapping family members and assault to threatening police with a firearm at his home near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

The Army suspended Ray from his job as chief of staff for I Corps; he is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 18 on one count of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of felony harassment and one count of reckless endangerment, according to a probable cause affidavit in the case.

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An anonymous Special Forces officer, who served under Ray when he commanded 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), told Army Times that the 1st Special Forces Command IG investigated a complaint that described Ray as being prone to "emotional outbursts" and swearing at subordinates, threatening to end their careers, according to the Army Times report. The site added that the IG dismissed the complaint in June as "not substantiated."

The Army confirmed to Military.com that there was an IG complaint submitted against Ray, but would not release it or comment on the case.

"The 1st Special Forces Command Inspector General investigated a complaint against Col. Owen Ray earlier this year," Lt. Col. Gabriel Ramirez, an Army spokesman, said in a statement. "As a matter of Army policy, we do not comment on the details of Inspector General investigations."

Military.com contacted Ray's attorney, Jared Ausserer, but did not receive an immediate response.

The complaint alleged that Ray was a toxic leader who was known for "shaming people in public" and expected key staff to work 14-hour days, Army Times reported.

In one incident, Ray was so furious for missing a teleconference by an hour because of a misunderstanding of the time zones involved that he began "swearing, shaking and throwing papers on the table before telling staff to lace up in running shoes for a roughly 7-mile run," Army Times reported.

The complaint stated that about two-thirds of his staff fell out of the brisk pace of the run, but Ray "did not give a second look" back, according to the report.

The incident that led to Ray's Dec. 27 arrest started with a domestic argument and escalated to Ray pointing a firearm at his wife, Kristen, and threatening to kill her in front of their children, the affidavit in that case states.

Ray proceeded to "kick Kristen over and over with his boots in the face and chest. The two [younger] children had woken up and were screaming, 'Don't kill mom, don't shoot us,'" according to the affidavit.

Police arrived shortly after midnight, and Ray allowed his wife and three children to leave the house. His wife had visible cuts and abrasions on her nose and a large bump on her forehead, the affidavit states.

Ray threatened to shoot officers if they tried to arrest him, but after about two hours, he surrendered to police, it adds.

Before assuming the I Corps chief of staff position, Ray commanded the 1st Special Forces Group and held other leadership positions in the Green Beret unit, such as commanding a detachment in 2003.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related: Green Beret Colonel Threatened to Kill Wife in Front of Children Before Standoff with Police: Affidavit

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