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Investigation finds Pierce County sheriff violated policies, exhibited bias

Troyer could face a recall by voters if it's found there has been a violation of the oath of office.

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer violated several department policies and standards when he followed and engaged in a confrontation with a Black newspaper carrier in January, a council-authorized investigation found.

Additionally, Troyer exhibited "an improper bias" when he confronted Sedrick Altheimer on the night of Jan. 27.

"Had Sheriff Troyer exercised good judgment and followed his department’s policies, he could have simply remained at home and made a non-emergent call to 911 about his suspicions, however wrong they ultimately proved to be. But he did not, and as a result, he put others at risk and fell short of meeting the public’s—and his department’s—expectations of how its employees should do their jobs," the investigation report, released Oct. 26, states.

In April, the Pierce County Council asked former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran to lead an independent investigation into Troyer's actions.

Troyer's attorney, John Sheeran, released the following statement after the report was released: 

"Sheriff Troyer did exactly what the people of Pierce County would want him to do, what we would want all of our law enforcement officers to do, when he observed a suspicious vehicle at 2 am, he called the police. He did not lie or make a false statement. We look forward to a jury trial where the people of Pierce County will judge him after hearing the witnesses. We are confident that after the people hear the whole story, Sheriff Troyer will be vindicated.”

Troyer could be recalled if it is found he violated the oath of office, according to the report. The recall process would not be tied to an election cycle.

Troyer confronted 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.

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 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.

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.

The Washington state attorney general filed misdemeanor charges against Troyer Oct. 19, after a months-long investigation. 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.

If convicted of a felony or crime involving malfeasance in office, Troyer could be barred from office, according to the report.