A Washington sheriff called a private department line alleging a Black man was trying to break into his home and was threatening to kill him, triggering over 40 different officers from different local agencies to race toward the scene believing another badge was in trouble.
However, the suspect was not looking to harm the lawman but was a newspaper deliverer who the sheriff in fact was harassing. He now says the trauma has caused him anxiety and he can’t sleep.
Local station KING 5 interviewed Sedrick Altheimer, who is speaking out for the first time since the early morning altercation with Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer Jr. that could have cost him his life.
On Jan. 27, 2021, the sheriff called for regional backup, stating four different times to the dispatcher that he was in grave danger as a man was following him and threatening to harm him.
Altheimer’s attorney, Vonda Sargent, says this is an example of racial and biased based profiling.
“It’s racism,” she said. “I mean, it’s just a system of racism.”
According to Altheimer’s interview and a probable cause affidavit retrieved by Atlanta Black Star, Troyer was following the paper deliveryman around his predominantly white Tacoma neighborhood early in the morning while he made his daily paper run and threatened him.
The 26-year-old, who had been working his job for eight years, says he believes his rights were violated.
“It’s just not the same,” Altheimer says as he gives the reason why he doesn’t get out of the car in the area close to Troyer’s home, and sometimes takes a detour. “Every time you drive in that neighborhood you look at that one spot and you’re like, man, I almost lost my life.”
While recalling the night, he remembered seeing headlights in his rearview mirror and noticing a white SUV following him on Vista View Drive. He said he stopped his car and approached the driver in an SUV. Reports marked the time at a little before 2 a.m.
“I asked him three questions that night: Are you a cop? Are you following me? And is it because I’m Black?”
According to the man, Troyer never identified himself as a police officer. However, the sheriff allegedly said his wife was Black. The complaint says Altheimer responded, “Congratulations.”
After that exchange, the sheriff called the delivery worker a “porch pirate,” someone who steals packages from outside of others’ homes.
After this encounter, which lasted only five minutes, Troyer continued following Altheimer until the Black man turned around in a cul-de-sac and stopped with his car facing Troyer’s in the middle of a street.
With the two men’s vehicles about 50 feet apart, Troyer made his report on an “officer line,” activating the chain of events that Altheimer says haunts him until this day. The probable cause report claims “The ‘officer line’ bypasses the 911 telephone lines and rings directly to the 911 dispatch desk. Officers typically use this back channel phone line to make routine requests or seek information.”
When on the line with a dispatcher, Troyer began, “I’m at 27th and Deidra, in Tacoma, North End, about two blocks from my house and I caught someone in my driveway who just threatened to kill me and I blocked him in. And he’s here right now.”
A recording to the dispatcher captures Troyer saying for the second time, “And he knows who I am, and he threatened to kill me.” Within approximately 4 minutes and 50 seconds, Troyer repeated that Altheimer was threatening to kill him four times.
The legal filing states, “Moments after receiving information that had come from Troyer, over 40 law enforcement officers from multiple agencies rushed toward [his] location.”
Troyer later identified the “suspect” as being possibly homeless and stated he “blocked me in” with his vehicle. He told the dispatcher he was being polite to the suspected homeless man but the suspect “just says I’m a racist. He wants to kill me. ”
From his car, Troyer created a story saying Altheimer was “pushing against my car” and wasn’t letting him leave. However, Altheimer was nowhere close to Troyer at the time.
Fourteen officers arrived at where Altheimer was and converged on him. He said his heart was “just pounding.” He said, “You never know what’s gonna happen with these guys. I had my hands in plain sight and I still almost got shot.”
Officer Lawless was one of the officers to arrive on the scene and assessed that no more patrol cars needed to be sent, “We don’t need the whole world coming.”
In a bodycam video, a clearly agitated Altheimer can be heard yelling to the officers, he was not doing anything wrong and that Troyer had been harassing him. He said, “Is that what you’re here for? I’m suspicious right?”
Adding, “How many cops, for a f-ing newspaper carrier? You guys are some badasses.’
“I don’t care what he called for. He’s following me! Go talk to him. I am working! I’m a Black man in a White neighborhood and I am working!”
Still, the officers on the scene made him get out of his car, frisked him, and asked him questions. He was asked if he threatened to kill the sheriff if he pushed against the sheriff’s car and/or blocked him in. He responded in the negative for each allegation.
Four minutes later, a Tacoma officer named Officer Ventura revealed what Altheimer had been accused of, “He just called saying that someone had threatened his life.”
“Yeah, I threatened his life because I walked up and asked why he was following me,” Altheimer responded.
One officer is heard saying on the bodycam, “I’m gonna be 100% honest, the reason there’s so many cops here is because he’s the sheriff.”
Another officer said it was “obvious he was a newspaper carrier because of all the newspapers stacked in the backseat of his car,” the document revealed.
The officers then went to Troyer to get his side of the story. When asked by Officer Lawless if the man brandished a weapon in a threatening manner, the sheriff said according to court documents, the man “never threatened him” and “he did not observe Altheimer with any weapons.”
He then said he saw “Altheimer driving his vehicle in and out of driveways in the neighborhood” and when he “tried to talk with Altheimer” it was clear to him he “wanted to fight.”
When Officer Lawless shared his observation about the man being a newspaper delivery person, the document says, “Troyer advised that we should let him go if that was the case.”
Altheimer was set free, but Troyer is now accused by the state of committing the crimes of false reporting and making a false or misleading statement to a public servant.
Sargent believes Troyer did indeed commit 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.”
For the misuse of his power, she believes he should be fired, saying, “I think the evidence supports that he did do these things. 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.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has enlisted the attorney general to investigate. The Pierce County Council is also investigating the officer that has devoted over 38 years to the force.
Altheimer says despite continuing to work the same route, he “can’t be in the neighborhood too long.” He now suffers from anxiety and says it impacts his ability to sleep.
“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.”