Army Special Forces Col. Owen Ray, who was arrested last week on charges of felony domestic violence, was previously flagged in an Army Inspector General complaint which accused him of berating subordinates and having “emotional outbursts.”
According to Military Times, which first reported on the IG complaint, Ray — the chief of staff of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. — allegedly “created a toxic command climate” while he was commander of the 1st Special Forces Group by “setting expectations that everyone should act like him, which meant putting work before all else, even family relationships.”
“He exacerbates this expectation by shaming people in public and berating them,” one statement in the IG complaint said, according to Military Times. “Additionally, he regularly overreacts on little information and has emotional outbursts.”
Maj. Dan Lessard, a spokesman for 1st Special Forces Command, confirmed that an IG inquiry was conducted “after our command received allegations concerning Col. Owen Ray,” but declined to release further details due to Army policy.
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Ray was arrested on Dec. 27 after a two-hour stand-off with police, who were responding to “a domestic assault in progress involving a firearm.”
According to the Tacoma News Tribune, which obtained charging papers in which prosecutors detailed the incident, Ray and his wife were in the middle of an argument when she went to hide from him in their youngest child’s bedroom. Ray allegedly retrieved a firearm, came into the child’s bedroom and pointed it as his wife, proceeding to kick her “over and over with his boots in the face and chest.”
“The two children had woken up and were screaming, ‘Don’t kill mom, don’t shoot us,’” the charge sheets said, according to the News Tribune.
Ray was ultimately charged with two counts of assault in the second degree with a firearm, two counts of felony harassment, kidnapping in the first degree, and reckless endangerment. He has since been suspended from his position with I Corps.
Though the IG complaint was allegedly investigated, the 1st Special Forces Command’s IG office determined it was “not substantiated” this summer, according to Military Times. One month later, Ray become the I Corps chief of staff.
Lt. Col. Neil Penttila, spokesman for I Corps, told Task & Purpose that I Corps “was not aware of a previous IG complaint.”
Among the allegations in the IG complaint included one instance in which Ray missed a teleconference because of confusion over time zones. In response, Ray started “swearing, shaking” and “throwing papers,” according to Military Times. He then instructed his staff to “lace up in running shoes for a roughly 7-mile run,” during which “about two-thirds fell out.”
Afterward, Ray went straight into his office, Military Times reported the IG complaint as saying, while others on his staff “jumped into cars to check on those who had fallen out to ensure they weren’t injured or dehydrated.”
Maj. Gen. John Brennan, commander of 1st Special Forces Command, said in a statement on Tuesday that Army Special Operations Forces soldiers “are the best the Army has to offer, and they deserve to serve under the finest leadership we can provide.
“That’s why I take allegations of leader misconduct seriously and investigate them accordingly,” Brennan said.
But the now-retired officer who made the original complaint has a different impression. The officer, whose name was not published, told Military Times that while he tried to submit his complaint with the Department of the Army Headquarters first, he was redirected and told to submit it with the 1st Special Forces Command’s IG office.
He said he feels that they “kind of just looked the other way, swept it under the rug” and didn’t interview everyone he listed as witnesses.
“They always say ‘see something; say something,’ but the Army has to do something too,” the officer told Military Times. “At the end of the day, this is a failure on the leadership in the SF channels.”
Featured photo: Col. Owen G. Ray, July 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Gaozong Lee)