TACOMA, Wash. — The Black newspaper carrier involved in a confrontation with Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer told KING 5 he believes the sheriff’s actions violated his civil rights and could have cost him his life. The incident led to misdemeanor criminal charges against Troyer.
On Jan. 27, 2021, Troyer called a department line used by law enforcement to gather routine information and requests and said that he “caught” Sedrick Altheimer in his driveway and “he just threatened to kill me,” according to probable cause documents.
In an exclusive interview with KING 5, Altheimer described that night and said Troyer was following him before the confrontation.
Troyer faces one charge of false reporting and one charge of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant. Troyer pleaded not guilty to the charges in October 2021. He was formally charged by the Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office following a months-long investigation. Troyer’s trial begins July 11.
Altheimer said he’s worked that route for eight years - since he was 18 years old. He said he delivers more than 400 papers, six nights a week in the predominantly white north Tacoma neighborhood.
He now takes a detour around the dark road where the confrontation with Troyer happened.
“It’s just not the same,” Altheimer said. “Every time you drive in that neighborhood you look at that one spot and you’re like, man, I almost lost my life.”
Altheimer said it started when he saw headlights in his rearview mirror from a vehicle that appeared to be following him. He stopped and got out of his car to confront the driver, he said.
“I asked him three questions that night: Are you a cop? Are you following me? And is it because I’m Black?” Altheimer recalled.
Altheimer said Troyer didn’t answer if he was a police officer, told Altheimer his wife was Black, and that Altheimer was being a “porch pirate,” according to probable cause documents.
Minutes later, Troyer called the backchannel to 911. During the call, he told dispatch a man was threatening his life, according to probable cause documents.
“He’s in some sort of gray car and it was in my driveway and my neighbor’s driveway, and he knows who I am, and he threatened to kill me,” Troyer told a dispatcher.
The dispatcher asked if Altheimer has a gun “or anything.”
“I have no idea,” Troyer responded. “He looks homeless, and his car was in my driveway, and he was in my neighbor’s driveway, and he tried to get into my garage.”
The dispatcher asked what kind of vehicle it was.
“I don’t know, some sort of beat-up truck … old, homeless-looking Scion,” Troyer responded.
Because of Troyer's call, more than 40 officers initially rushed to his location, according to probable cause 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, according to probable cause documents.
Ultimately, 14 officers arrived at the scene, according to probable cause documents.
Altheimer said at that moment his heart was “just pounding.”
“Like, you never know what’s gonna happen with these guys,” he said. “I had my hands in plain sight and I still almost got shot.”
Altheimer was ordered to get out of his car and frisked while officers searched his vehicle.
Troyer allegedly made several accusations that night – that Altheimer pulled in his driveway, that he threatened to kill the sheriff, and that he pushed against the sheriff’s car and blocked him in -- and Altheimer has denied every one.
Four minutes passed before a Tacoma officer told Altheimer what was going on.
“I’m gonna be 100% honest, the reason there’s so many cops here is because he’s the sheriff,” an officer can be heard saying on bodycam video.
Altheimer’s attorney Vonda Sargent said she sees a criminal act, “that this man, the sheriff, the head of one of the largest organizations of police officers in our state could call and say no less than three times that his life had been threatened is unfathomable.”
According to probable cause documents, Troyer walked back on his statement that night and said Altheimer never threatened him.
Sargent said the incident should have immediately gone to the prosecutor with an eye toward charges – that did not happen.
“It’s racism … I mean, it’s just a system of racism,” Sargent said, adding that it’s a clear case of economic and racial profiling and biased policing.
“I think the evidence supports that he did do these things,” Sargent said. “Accountability to me would be him being convicted and for him to resign. He absolutely should not be the sheriff of Pierce County. He shouldn’t be in law enforcement.”
Troyer, who has been with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department for about 38 years, has denied any wrongdoing.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee directed the state attorney general to investigate Troyer for potential criminal violations stemming from the incident in January – separately from an independent investigation prompted by the Pierce County Council.
Troyer has accused Attorney General Bob Ferguson of escalating and exaggerating the charges. In a written statement to KUOW, Troyer called Ferguson’s investigation “a blatant and politically motivated anti-cop hit job.”
Now, Altheimer has changed his routine.
“I can’t be in the neighborhood too long,” he said. He also said he only gets out of his car during his paper route when he must.
Altheimer said the night of the confrontation with Troyer changed his life. He now lives in fear and suffers from anxiety, he said.
“I’m quiet, I can’t sleep,” he said. “I don’t like to sleep because of the fact that I know that I could have been dead.”
Still, he continues working the same route.
“There’s a bond, you know. I got ties, relations … these people know my kids,” he said.
Altheimer filed a $5 million suit against the county and Sheriff Troyer.
KING 5 reached out to Troyer for an interview. Sheriff Troyer has repeatedly denied KING 5 requests for a sit-down interview, but said he stands by his original statement to dispatch that Altheimer made verbal threats that night and denies he racially profiled Altheimer.
Troyer’s attorney, John Sheeran, responded with the following statement:
"Sheriff Troyer did nothing wrong when he saw a man he was concerned might be committing crimes in the middle of the night. He called the police, asked them to send one or two officers and stayed in his car while waiting for the officers to arrive. He never threatened the man nor did he display a firearm. He just waited until the officers arrived. We expect that a jury will see that Sheriff Troyer did what we would want any of our neighbors to do and we look forward to his vindication."
If convicted of the two misdemeanor charges filed against him, Troyer could be sentenced to more than a year in jail and fined up to $5,000.
Editor’s note: Joyce Taylor grew up in Tacoma and was classmates with Ed Troyer at Woodrow Wilson high School. They graduated in the same class.