A Washington state jury has found a Pierce County sheriff not guilty on charges connected to him following a delivery driver around during his early morning work route.
Despite admitting that he falsely told his law enforcement colleagues the man threatened him, the court still determined he should not face time in prison for the alleged crime.
On Wednesday, Dec. 14, Sheriff Ed Troyer was cleared of all charges related to a Jan. 27, 2021, incident, where he tailed delivery courier Sedrick Altheimer as he dropped off morning papers on his daily paper run, a statement from the Washington State Attorney General’s office announced.
After seven hours of deliberation, the six-member, nearly all-white jury unanimously reached not-guilty verdicts on both misdemeanor counts.
Court documents state Troyer followed Altheimer, and records showed he told other officers the Black, then-25-year-old threatened him when he finally stopped him for being in his neighborhood around 2 a.m.
At one point, the African-American man got out of his car and approached an out-of-uniform Troyer in his personal SUV.
The delivery driver testified, “I asked him three questions that night: Are you a cop? Are you following me? And is it because I’m Black?”
Though Troyer did not identify himself as law enforcement, according to Altheimer, he attempted to dismiss any thoughts of racialized profiling by saying he was married to a Black woman.
Altheimer responded, “Congratulations.” This exchange, which included Troyer calling the young man a “porch pirate,” lasted for about five minutes before Troyer called a private 911 “officer line” and, in a desperate plea, told a dispatcher that this suspicious man “knows who I am and he threatened to kill me.”
“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,” he said on the call.
His conversation with the dispatcher was made public and captured Troyer saying for the second time, “And he knows who I am, and he threatened to kill me.” Within approximately five minutes, Troyer repeated that the courier worker threatened to kill him four times.
Troyer’s signal to his fellow officers prompted almost 40 cops to come to his rescue.
After arriving, the officers discovered the sheriff’s life was never in danger — and that Altheimer, who had worked with his courier company for eight years, was only doing his job.
The young man said to the officers, now back in his vehicle and holding his hands firmly on the wheel, “I am working! I’m a Black man in a white neighborhood, and I am working!” the prosecution reported.
According to charging documents, Troyer told officers on the scene a different story than the dispatchers. He later told them Altheimer did not threaten him. Officer Chad Lawless said in his testimony he specifically asked Troyer twice about threats and was told he was never in danger.
Troyer disputed Lawless’ account, saying in court he never retracted that he was threatened but said he “wasn’t worried” once officials confirmed Altheimer was a delivery worker, the Seattle Times reports.
The incident caught the attention of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. On Apr. 24, 2021, Inslee referred the criminal investigation to the attorney general’s office.
The attorney general’s office filed the charges in October 2021, which accused Troyer of false reporting and making a false or misleading statement to a public servant. However, a jury of Troyer’s peers did not believe the state proved their case.
“Part of upholding the rule of law is respecting the decision of a jury,” State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “I appreciate the jury’s service and thank my team for their hard work.”
Troyer’s attorney Anne Bremner said her client is “grateful” to the jury for its decision, calling it a “just verdict.” However, she thought the government went about this investigation wrong.
“If the AG had made Sheriff Troyer part of the investigation instead of the target, we wouldn’t be here,” Bremner said in a statement.
This strategy was used throughout the trial. Bremner often spoke about her client being “the victim of the media, anti-police bias, and a political prosecution by the Attorney General’s Office.”
Troyer even said during his testimony, “The media’s made me out to be a racist, and the state’s made me out to be a liar.”
During her closing statements, Bremner told the jurors the trial against the sheriff was a “huge waste of resources.”
It also bore a personal cost to Troyer, who had to pay legal expenses out of his own pocket after Pierce County rejected his request for the county to cover his costs.
This is not over, at least not for Altheimer, who filed a $5 million civil lawsuit against Pierce County and Troyer. The case has been on hold, waiting for the criminal trial to be completed.
In the complaint, Altheimer alleges Troyer has violated his constitutional rights.
Though the criminal trial went in Troyer’s favor, the civil suit has more support. Former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran led an investigation commissioned by the Pierce County Council, and that body found Troyer violated several policies of bias-free policing, The Associated Press reports. It also determined he went against the county’s professional standards and gave wavering statements about the incident in the press to his neighbors and other officers.
Moran’s report was released in 2021 and will most likely be used in the civil case, experts believe.
What also might be helpful for the prosecution is Troyer being placed by his county’s officials on the “Brady list.”
The Brady list is a public-facing database and scarlet letter spotlighting law enforcement with credibility problems and who have been exposed for police misconduct.