Conflicting accounts after Pierce County sheriff calls police on Black delivery driver

Mar 19, 2021, 9:03 AM | Updated: Mar 22, 2021, 11:15 am

pierce county sheriff ed troyer...

Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer. (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

A new report reveals a series of events that led to Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer calling the police on a Black newspaper delivery driver in late January.

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Troyer described the incident in a statement to KIRO Radio, noting that it was around 2 a.m. on the night in question when he saw a car going in and out of a neighbor’s driveway with its headlights off.

“So I put my clothes on, went out in my own car, and went out to go see if I could find the car and get a license plate and see what was going on, because it was very suspicious,” he described, noting that he initially did not know the driver was Black. “I got up a couple streets above me, a car blocked me in, a male jumped out. The male was very angry and mad and didn’t tell me he was a newspaper driver — he was just mad.”

Troyer’s call to dispatch went out to all South Sound law enforcement agencies “at the highest priority. According to the Seattle Times, 42 units across multiple agencies responded, although Troyer contests that number.

The man — identified as 24-year-old Sedrick Altheimer — described to the Times that he felt he was being targeted as “a Black man in a white neighborhood” when police arrived on the scene.

“I’m yelling ‘what are you guys here for? What am I doing wrong? You guys are trying to arrest a paper carrier!’” he said. “These police officers just wasted a gallon of gas speeding over here, for what? I’m giving the people the news and I’m going home. I’ve got five kids.”

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In 911 audio, Troyer can be heard telling the dispatcher that the car he was following was “homeless-looking,” and said on three separate occasions that Altheimer had “threatened to kill” him. Altheimer denies that claim.

An incident report filed by a Tacoma officer also appeared to contradict assertions made in Troyer’s dispatch call, with the officer on the scene saying Troyer had amended his story to say that “[Altheimer] never threatened him.”

Troyer further explained to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson, “When he said he was going to take me out and with his anger, I backed up and I was not going to engage with him. That’s when I called dispatch. The wording may be different, but I felt like he was threatening me when he said he was going to take me out.”

“What I told officers at the scene including my own was ‘no I don’t want to pursue a threats report,'” Troyer added in a written statement. “I think it was perceived as ‘no threats.’ It wasn’t an issue for me. I was fine letting it go.”

Altheimer was released at the scene after allowing police to search his car, where it was confirmed that he was indeed delivering newspapers on his normal route.

We have reached out to Altheimer for additional clarification on how the events of that night transpired.

Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young also released a statement late Friday morning, saying that the council “is concerned about what occurred, and is eager to learn more about the circumstances of that night.”

“As we have more information, we will have a better sense of appropriate next steps available to us,” Young said. “We remain committed to working toward making our county a place where every resident feels safe.”

Troyer released a statement Friday afternoon, saying in part that he stands by his original recorded statement to dispatch when he reported that “there were verbal threats made.”

“Due the nature of the call, the Tacoma Police Department investigated the matter and concluded the inquiry without incident and I invite further inquiry into the matter,” Troyer writes. “I am saddened to learn that Mr. Altheimer felt he was treated in an unfair manner. I am committed to continuing the ongoing dialogue with our community to ensure that policing in Pierce County is free of racial bias and performed in a manner that upholds the public trust.”

View Troyer’s full statement below:

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Conflicting accounts after Pierce County sheriff calls police on Black delivery driver