Breaking News
More () »

Criminal trial for Pierce County sheriff starts Monday. Here's what we know about the case

Troyer is on trial after claiming to 911 that a Black newspaper courier threatened to kill him, only to walk those claims back when police arrived.

TACOMA, Wash. — Editor's note: The above video on a Kitsap County Judge ordering Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer to post $100,000 bail originally aired on July 1, 2022.

The trial against Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer will begin on Nov. 21 with jury selection, months after he was charged with two misdemeanors over a confrontation he allegedly initiated with a Black newspaper carrier in January 2021.

Troyer allegedly called an officer line to 911 dispatch claiming the newspaper carrier, Sedrick Altheimer, threatened to kill him, causing more than 40 officers to initially rush to his location. When police arrived on scene, Troyer walked back those statements. 

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson charged Troyer in October 2021 with one count of false reporting and one count of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant. 

Here's what to know as the trial is set to begin: 

Timeline of the trial

Jury selection for Troyer's trial will begin on Nov. 21 and is expected to last through Nov. 23. 

Opening statements are expected to begin on Nov. 28. Trial days will be Monday through Thursday, beginning at 8:45 a.m. and lasting until 4:15 p.m.

Closing arguments are expected on Dec. 8.

How to watch the trial

KING 5 will live stream the trial, beginning with opening statements Nov. 28. Follow live coverage on king5.com, the KING 5 mobile app, KING 5+ apps on Roku and Amazon Fire and the KING 5 YouTube channel. 

Troyer's confrontation with a Black newspaper carrier

An investigation carried out by Ferguson's office after public outcry and a request from Gov. Jay Inslee revealed the approximate chain of events that led up to Troyer making the call to 911. 

According to probable cause documents, on the night of Jan. 27, Troyer confronted Altheimer in the early morning hours, following him through a Tacoma suburb while on his delivery route. 

During a delivery stop, Altheimer approached Troyer's vehicle to find out why he was following him. Probable cause documents state that during a brief conversation, Troyer accused Altheimer of being a "porch pirate" but did not identify himself as the Pierce County sheriff or a member of law enforcement. 

Altheimer returned to his vehicle and left, but Troyer continued to follow him through the neighborhood. 

Altheimer eventually stopped and Troyer stopped his vehicle about 50 feet away. Troyer then called an officer line used by law enforcement to get routine information and requested to make a report to 911, according to court documents. 

During his call with a dispatcher, Troyer said multiple times that Altheimer threatened to kill him, according to documents. Because of what Troyer communicated during the call, the dispatcher gave Troyer’s message the highest priority level.

Moments later, more than 40 officers rushed toward Troyer and Altheimer’s location, according to the charging 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.

Troyer also claimed to dispatchers that Altheimer knew who he was and that he had called him a racist.

Two Tacoma police officers arrived on scene and quickly assessed that the call was not high priority and told dispatch to send only one more Tacoma police unit.

Although the call was canceled, 14 officers and sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene after making themselves available for other calls.

Altheimer told KING 5 that when police arrived on scene 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. 

Four minutes passed before a Tacoma officer told Altheimer what was going on.

When questioned by the officers, Altheimer told them that he was the one being followed and that he was working. He continuously denied ever making threats and asked if he could return to work.

Officers told Altheimer that the reason there were so many units at the scene was that Troyer is the Pierce County sheriff.

When questioned during Ferguson's investigation, officers said Troyer told them Altheimer didn't make any threats and he did not observe any weapons on him. 

When asked his side of the story, Troyer said he followed Altheimer after seeing him pull into other driveways in his neighborhood. After following him in his personal vehicle, Troyer said he confronted Altheimer and it was obvious he “wanted to fight.”

After advising Troyer that Altheimer appeared to be a newspaper carrier at the scene, officers said Troyer told them to let him go.

One Tacoma officer told dispatch shortly after arriving at the scene and speaking with Altheimer and Troyer that there was no apparent crime.

Ferguson’s office tried to interview Troyer about the incident, but he declined multiple times.

In May, Altheimer told KING 5 he believes the sheriff’s actions violated his civil rights and could have cost him his life. 

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 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.

An explanation of the charges

Ferguson went on to file two charges against Troyer following the incident, including one count of false reporting and one count of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant. Troyer pled not guilty to the charges.

According to Washington state law, a person commits false reporting if they initiate an emergency response, including a response by law enforcement, fire officials, emergency medical services or search and rescue, based on information they knew to be false that they reported, conveyed or circulated. 

Making a false or misleading "material statement" to a public servant is a gross misdemeanor, according to state law. A "material statement" is a written or oral statement reasonably likely to be relied upon by a public servant in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties.

If convicted, Troyer could face up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine for both offenses. 

If convicted of a felony or crime involving malfeasance in office, Troyer could be barred from office.

In a statement, the sheriff's department said Troyer remains the elected sheriff in "full lawful authority" as he addresses the charges filed against him.

"The sheriff has instructed his command staff, and the entire Pierce County Sheriff’s Department to continue in its mission and to fulfill their duties without interruption or distraction," the statement reads.

What led up to the trial

Pierce County Council requests investigation 

In April 2021, the Pierce County Council asked former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran to lead an independent investigation into Troyer's actions.

The resulting report concluded that Troyer violated several department policies and standards when he followed and engaged in a confrontation with Altheimer.

Additionally, the report concluded Troyer exhibited "an improper bias" when he confronted Altheimer.

"Had Sheriff Troyer exercised good judgment and followed his department’s policies, he could have simply remained at home and made a non-emergent call to 911 about his suspicions, however wrong they ultimately proved to be. But he did not, and as a result, he put others at risk and fell short of meeting the public’s—and his department’s—expectations of how its employees should do their jobs," the investigation report, released Oct. 26, 2021, states.

Troyer's attorney, John Sheeran, released the following statement in part after the report was released: 

"Sheriff Troyer did exactly what the people of Pierce County would want him to do, what we would want all of our law enforcement officers to do, when he observed a suspicious vehicle at 2 am, he called the police. He did not lie or make a false statement. We look forward to a jury trial where the people of Pierce County will judge him after hearing the witnesses. We are confident that after the people hear the whole story, Sheriff Troyer will be vindicated.”

Altheimer sues Pierce County

In June 2021, attorneys representing Altheimer submitted a $5 million tort claim against Pierce County contending Troyer’s actions during the Jan. 27 incident violated Altheimer’s constitutional rights and caused him “severe emotional distress.” 

Adam Faber with the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office confirmed they received the claim but at the time would not comment further.

Anti-harassment order issued 

A judge issued an anti-harassment order in May 2022 ruling that Troyer is restrained from contacting Altheimer, following him, or being within 500 feet of his home, workplace or vehicle. In June, the order was continued, amending that Troyer must stay 1,000 feet away from Altheimer and continue to avoid any contact through June 2023.

Altheimer's attorney said Troyer followed Altheimer on several occasions while he was driving his paper route, flashing his lights at him. 

Sheeran provided a statement following the filing of the initial anti-harassment claim, which in part read, "Sheriff Troyer has not done anything to warrant the court entering an anti-harassment order."

Release conditions violated 

In July, Troyer was ordered to post $100,000 in bail after a Kitsap County judge found he violated the conditions of his release. The judge also said he did not trust Troyer to adhere to the conditions of release in the future and he was concerned for Altheimer's safety. 

Ferguson filed the motion to revoke Troyer's condition of release in June when Altheimer's attorney argued the sheriff did not keep his distance from Altheimer.

During the hearing, Sheeran said the judge was trying to humiliate the sheriff by having him arrested if he didn't post bail.

In a statement, Sheeran says that despite the Attorney General's office asking the court to impose $10,000 bail, "which itself was unwarranted, the court unreasonably imposed $100,000."

Under the new conditions of release, Troyer must strictly adhere to the anti-harassment order. Additionally, Troyer or a third party cannot keep Altheimer under surveillance.

Before You Leave, Check This Out