TACOMA, Wash. — The Tacoma police officer who spoke with Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer at the scene of a 2021 confrontation with a newspaper carrier testified in court Wednesday.
Troyer faces two misdemeanor charges after he allegedly claimed on an officer line to 911 dispatch that newspaper carrier Sedrick Altheimer threatened to kill him in January 2021.
The trial is now on its ninth day.
Tacoma Police Detective Chad Lawless testified that he and his partner Officer Corey Ventura were the first unit to arrive on the scene.
While Ventura was interviewing Altheimer, Lawless said he spoke with the sheriff about what happened. Lawless testified that Troyer told him he was in his house when he saw a vehicle driving in and out of driveways. Troyer went to investigate, found the vehicle and started talking with the occupant, Lawless said.
Lawless testified that he asked Troyer twice if Altheimer had made any threats to him, and both times, Troyer said no. Lawless said he clarified whether Altheimer had displayed weapons, and Troyer said no, “but he (Troyer) said it was clear that he (Altheimer) wanted to fight.”
Lawless was also responsible for downgrading the officer needs help call, which communicated they didn’t need additional officers on scene.
“I believe my exact words were, ‘We don’t need the whole world here,’” Lawless said in court.
During cross-examination, Troyer’s lawyer, Nick Gross, called into question Lawless’s approach to his handling of the incident, such as Lawless writing his report over a day after the incident occurred.
Gross also asked why Lawless didn't take an incident where Altheimer went to Troyer's house and threw a newspaper in his driveway after the initial confrontation more seriously, noting that he and his superior laughed about it.
“Do you understand why a person in Sheriff Troyer’s position might be concerned?” Gross asked.
“Absolutely,” Lawless replied. “If he was concerned, he should’ve called 911, then.”
The defense also asked Lawless why he didn't use his fifth amendment right to refuse questioning for the trial.
"I felt like the facts of this case need to come out and I didn't want to look like I was hiding anything from the court or the jury," he said.
"You didn't want it to look like you were hiding something, because you want to see Mr. Troyer convicted?" Gross responded.
"No," Lawless said.
Troyer's attorneys called his wife to the stand to talk about the impact of the trial on their family.
She said she wants it to end.
"I'm so tired of it all," Wendy Troyer said. "I just want it to be over."
During her initial statements, Wendy Troyer said protesters have been showing up at their home since the January 2021 incident. However, the judge ruled the statements had no bearing on the sheriff's alleged crimes, so they were irrelevant to the trial. Wendy Troyer's testimony is expected to continue tomorrow.
On Tuesday, Altheimer testified that he saw Troyer following him in his SUV while he was on his newspaper route and eventually confronted him. Altheimer said he never made threats to the sheriff.
On Monday, SouthSound 911 Dispatcher Leah Heiberg, Darren Steiner, who owns the newspaper distribution company that contracts Altheimer, and Tacoma Police Officer Zachary Hobbs, who spoke with Troyer at the scene, testified.
On Jan. 27, 2021, Troyer called 911 on a line used by law enforcement to gather routine information and requests and said that he “caught” Altheimer in his driveway and “he just threatened to kill me,” according to probable cause documents.
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.