PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has directed the state attorney general to investigate Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer for potential criminal violations stemming from an incident in January where Troyer told a 911 dispatcher that a newspaper carrier had threatened to kill him.
Troyer has come under fire for the Jan. 27 call to an internal dispatch number, leading to activists calling for his removal. Earlier this month, the Pierce County Council called for an independent investigation into the incident and the course of events that took place that night.
During the call, the sheriff claimed Sedrick Altheimer, a Black newspaper carrier, was threatening to kill him. Troyer later retracted that statement when speaking with the Tacoma Police Department. The call led to more than 40 officers from multiple agencies rushing toward the scene.
KING 5 obtained video footage from the body cameras of the Tacoma police officers who responded to the call. It records their interaction with Altheimer, but it does not record any interactions with Troyer. In the video, Altheimer tells officers that he walked up to Troyer's unmarked car after Troyer had followed him on his route for several blocks.
On April 13, the Pierce County Council said former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran would lead the independent investigation on Troyer.
According to the council, "The approved scope of work directs Moran to review the sheriff’s conduct from Jan. 1, 2020 to Jan. 27, 2021 to determine whether there is a pattern of misuse of authority, deviation from standards or a violation of policy or law."
Troyer was elected by voters last November to the position of Pierce County Sheriff. Before the election, he served as spokesperson for the sheriff's department for 19 years, and has been with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department for 35 years.
In a statement Friday, Inslee said he found the events on that January night "concerning."
"The initial reports of these events were very concerning to me, and I had hoped to see some action taken to initiate a criminal investigation at the local level. But, to my knowledge, that has not happened almost three months after the incident," Inslee said. "So now the state is stepping in. I have spoken to Attorney General Ferguson and his office will conduct this investigation and make the decision whether to initiate prosecution."
Sakara Remmu, lead strategist with the Washington Black lives Matter Alliance, said Inslee needs to hold sheriffs accountable.
"Sheriffs have no oversight accountability like other law enforcement, so then this does rest at the feet of the Governor to take action and make sure that there’s accountability, to make sure the Sheriff’s Department has stable leadership, and to make sure that everyone who lives in, works in, or visits Pierce County is safe," said Remmu.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement that his office "will conduct a diligent, fact-based review."
Inslee's action grants Ferguson's office concurrent authority and power with the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney to investigate Troyer, and to initiate and conduct any prosecution that could be brought up from the investigation.
Troyer issued a statement to KING 5 Friday evening that said, "Just like with the local investigation being conducted by the Pierce County Council I welcome any and all inquiries into the event that occurred on January 27th. I and the department will fully cooperate with the investigation and look forward to it being done."