Spokane reporter witnesses alcohol theft as Wash. privatizes liquor

SPOKANE, Wash. - Washington state's new liquor laws went into effect Friday morning, and KXLY4 reporter Jeff Humphrey was witness to the first attempted alcohol theft from a South Hill Rosauers.

Hard liquor went up for sale in stores across Washington at 6 a.m. and Humphrey was doing a live shot at the Safeway on 29th Avenue and Southeast Boulevard around 6:30 a.m. for a story about the first day Washington grocery stores can sell liquor.

Between live shots, Humphrey walked over to check out the prices of alcohol at Rosauers across the street. As he was walking in, he saw a 16-year-old running out of the store with a half-gallon bottle of alcohol in each of his hands.

Rosauers' employees chasing the suspect out the door tackled him.

"Obviously he didn't pay for that, and as he exited the store some of our employees witnessed what had happened, they went out into the parking lot and basically apprehended him in the parking lot," Rosauers president Jeff Phillips said.

Humphrey, who said it was an "impressive take-down," added that one of the half-gallon bottles the suspect was carrying, an $85 bottle of Hennessy, was shattered in the process.

A getaway car was waiting for the teen, but when the people inside the car saw the would-be robber get tackled, they took off and left him behind. Humphrey was able to write down the license plate of the getaway car and turned that information over to police when they arrived. Spokane police confirm the getaway car had been reported stolen 30 minutes before the robbery attempt.

Phillips said that Rosauers has been preparing for the possibility of liquor theft following the implementation of Initiative 1183, which privatized liquor sales in Washington. They just didn't expect one to happen 30 minutes after the law went into effect.

"What we've done to help protect our young people is we've added security cameras inside the store that are monitoring that whole section as well as the rest of the store and we've also added security staff," Phillips said.

While extra security staff have been added to the store, the employees who apprehended the would-be robber were clerks.

"We feel like we have a real obligation to make sure we're selling liquor to those who are of age and have the ability to purchase that product, but we're also feeling just as responsible to make sure that alcohol does not get into the hands of those who should not have it," Phillips said.

The teen, who admitted this wasn't the first time he had been arrested, was arrested on robbery and assault charges and taken into custody. Police are continuing to search for the driver and passengers who were in the getaway car.