TACOMA, Wash — The Washington state attorney general filed misdemeanor charges against Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer Tuesday following an incident involving a Black newspaper carrier in January.
Troyer was charged with one count of false reporting and one count of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant, according to a release from AG Bob Ferguson’s office.
The charges come after a months-long investigation requested by Gov. Jay Inslee along with outcry from across Puget Sound.
Troyer confronted the newspaper carrier, Sedrick Altheimer, in the early morning hours of Jan. 27 after following him through a Tacoma suburb while on his delivery route, according to the probable cause documents.
During a delivery stop, Altheimer approached Troyer’s vehicle to find out why he was following him.
The probable cause documents state that during a brief conversation, Troyer accused Altheimer of being a “porch pirate” but did not identify himself as the Pierce County sheriff or a member of law enforcement.
Altheimer returned to his vehicle and left, but Troyer followed him again through the neighborhood.
Altheimer eventually stopped, and Troyer stopped his vehicle as well about 50 feet away. Troyer then called an officer line used by law enforcement to get routine information and requests.
During his call with a dispatcher, Troyer said multiple times that Altheimer threatened to kill him, according to documents. Because of what Troyer communicated during the call, the dispatcher gave Troyer’s message the highest priority level.
Moments later, more than 40 officers rushed toward Troyer and Altheimer’s location, according to the charging documents.
While officers responded, Troyer began telling the dispatcher that Altheimer was “not going to let me leave” and that Altheimer was “pushing against my car.” Troyer had initially stated that he had the other driver blocked in.
Troyer also claimed to dispatchers that Altheimer knew who he was and that he had called him a racist.
When Tacoma Police Officers Chad Lawless and Corey Ventura arrived on scene, they quickly assessed that the call was not high priority and told dispatch to send only one more Tacoma police unit.
“We don’t need the whole world coming,” Lawless said, according to the charging documents.
Although the call was canceled, 14 officers and sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene after making themselves available for other calls.
When questioned by the officers, Altheimer told them that he was the one being followed and that he was working. He continuously denied ever making threats and asked if he could return to work.
Officers told Altheimer that the reason there were so many units at the scene was because Troyer is the sheriff.
During Ferguson’s investigation, officers said Troyer told them that Altheimer didn’t make any threats and that he did not observe any weapons on him.
When asked his side of the story, Troyer said that he followed Altheimer after seeing him pull into other driveways in his neighborhood. After following him in his personal vehicle, Troyer said he confronted Altheimer and it was obvious he “wanted to fight.”
After advising Troyer that Altheimer appeared to be a newspaper carrier at the scene, officers said Troyer told them to let him go.
One Tacoma officer told dispatch shortly after arriving at the scene and speaking with Altheimer and Troyer that there was no apparent crime.
Ferguson’s office tried to interview Troyer about the incident, but he declined multiple times.
Altheimer has also filed a $5 million tort claim over the incident against Pierce County. The claim alleges that the incident violated Altheimer’s constitutional rights and caused him “severe emotional distress.”
The Pierce County Council, meanwhile, is also investigating the incident, hiring former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran to conduct an independent inquiry as well as submit findings and recommendations for discipline and future actions.
In a statement, the council said Tuesday that it "takes these charges seriously and will consult with the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney, who serves as legal counsel to the Council, to review all available options.”
Troyer was elected sheriff in November after serving as the Pierce County Sheriff Department’s public information officer for 19 years. He’s been with the department for 35 years.
If convicted, Troyer could face up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine for both offenses.
In a statement, the sheriff's department said Troyer remains the elected sheriff in "full lawful authority" as he addresses the charges filed against him.
"The sheriff has instructed his command staff, and the entire Pierce County Sheriff’s Department to continue in its mission and to fulfill their duties without interruption or distraction," the statement reads.
Troyer released the posted the following statement on Facebook around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday:
"AG Ferguson and his office has called media outlets in the area to leak that he intends to file misdemeanor charges against me, your elected Sheriff.
In spite of the fact that he is telling the media, he hasn’t had the professional courtesy to tell me or my lawyer.
This ambush confirms that this is not an independent and fair investigation. The charge is a blatant and politically motivated anti-cop hit job. His intention is supported by the fact that numerous times AG Ferguson’s office called the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office and asked for the case. After being denied by the prosecutors office multiple times he asked Governor Jay Inslee to get involved and forcibly take it from Pierce County. I support a fair and independent investigation, this is not it. AG Ferguson’s actions stopped that investigation.
The night of the incident I was doing what I have done for decades—investigate the possibility of criminal activity after neighbors and I had repeatedly become victims of property crime.
At all times, I sought to de-escalate the incident by asking for 1 or 2 units to help.
AG Ferguson has done the opposite and instead has sought to escalate and exaggerate the incident for political reasons and spent tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours investigating a misdemeanor that did not happen. Concurrently Fergurson [sic] has not lifted a finger to investigate the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits that happened on his watch.
I’m a Pierce County cop with a belief in Pierce County juries. I’m confident a Pierce County jury will not allow Bob Ferguson to de-elect the sheriff the voters elected.
Ferguson is an anti-law and order an anti-cop politician trying to score points for political gain.
This attorney general has taken it upon himself to attack cops because it will get him headlines and further his anti-cop agenda.
Ferguson has spent a huge amount of money investigating an alleged misdemeanor that was not committed but has ignored the crimes committed against cops. We don’t hear of charges against even one person who assaulted officers during the CHOP riots and other related crimes.
Ferguson is trying to defund the police in Pierce County and Tacoma one meritless prosecution at a time. I’m built for this challenge and will fight it to the end.
My job is to protect the citizens of Pierce county and that is what I have done for 37 years and that is what I will continue to do. I have had my windows broken out in my office, car broken into, death threats and more.
Ferguson has taken it upon himself to target me. Fergurson [sic] has done nothing about the skyrocketing Crime across our state. As state attorney general Bob Ferguson is not protecting citizens he is creating more crime with a false narrative and causing division in our communities and empowering criminals.
Bob Ferguson's solution to crime is charging a 37 year veteran of law-enforcement with no founded or sustained complaints in his career as a criminal.
We can either have a safe community where police are allowed to do their job or we can have the cops handcuffed and the criminals run free.
I ask for your support in standing up to bullies in power."