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Police officer sentenced on theft charges

By Ed Brock

Former Lake City Police Sgt. Steve Ray, who pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing guns from the department's evidence room and pawning them, will not serve any time in jail. But he will never be a policeman again.

Turning over his law enforcement certification was part of Ray's sentence, along with five years probation and an order to pay the city $1,200 in restitution, Clayton County District Attorney Bob Keller said.

Ray could have received up to 40 years in prison for the four counts, Keller said

Ray, 41, had been with the Lake City Police Department for six and a half years.

Ray had already turned the certificate over when he resigned from the Lake City department shortly after Clayton County Police first interviewed him about the accusation that he had taken the guns, Ray's attorney Steve Frey said.

Keller said that one of the guns Ray took from the evidence room was stolen and that tipped off the employees of the Pawn Warehouse on Forest Parkway near Forest Park where he took the guns.

"Fortunately the pawn shop was doing its job (by running a check on the guns,)" Keller said.

The theft of the guns did not interfere with any pending criminal cases, Keller said.

Frey said his client took the guns because he was in a financial bind and most of the guns would probably have been destroyed anyway.

"He didn't think there'd be any harm to it," Frey said.

In passing the sentence, the court took into consideration the fact that Ray was cooperative and forthcoming and had accepted responsibility for his actions, Frey said.

The sentence was acceptable to Lake City Police Chief David Colwell. He said some people might underestimate how tough it is that Ray is now banned from law enforcement.

"That's a stiff penalty in itself," Colwell said.

Meanwhile Colwell said his department is still looking at the procedures it uses for monitoring its evidence room. The incident did demonstrate the effectiveness of one policy already in place, that being restricting access to the room to one person. In this case, Ray was that person and so if evidence was missing he would be the one to look at.

"So you know who to talk to (in cases like this,)" Colwell said.

The department may begin performing periodic audits of the evidence room as well.