Rantz: No evidence, but sheriff smeared as racist by media, activists — time to push back

Mar 21, 2021, 10:36 PM | Updated: Mar 22, 2021, 11:08 am
pierce county sheriff ed troyer...
Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer was smeared in a one-sided Seattle Times report last week. Other members of the media and anti-police activists jumped into the fray.

The claim is that Troyer racially profiled a driver, whom he didn’t know was Black, after witnessing objectively suspicious behavior in the middle of the night.

Even a casual look at the facts show Troyer acted appropriately. Moreover, any review of the facts reveals there’s no evidence of racism. But in 2021, quite literally everything is racist.

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There was reason for suspicion

It doesn’t take a badge to realize that it’s suspicious to drive in and out of people’s driveways, in the middle of the night, with headlights off. When Troyer saw the driver around 2 a.m. do just that, his law enforcement instincts took over. It’s hard to pretend his position wasn’t understandable.

“So at that point, it’s two o’clock in the morning. That’s suspicious,” Troyer told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “And at this point, I have no idea who was driving that car. I don’t know if it’s a male, female, what the race is, not at all, not one bit.”

He hopped in his civilian vehicle, without any weapons, to see what was going on. His property has been burglarized and vandalized recently and perhaps this was the culprit.

Troyer caught up to the driver about two blocks over and there was a confrontation. He says 24-year-old Sedrick Altheimer was upset. Altheimer told the Seattle Times that he felt like he was being followed.

“Said some things to me, and I knew I wasn’t going to confront him,” Troyer explained. “And that’s when I called dispatch and called them and let them know that somebody has said, … I felt that they threatened to kill me, that he wanted to fight.”

The threat

Troyer says Altheimer’s threat was pretty clear. And he knew he was making it toward the sheriff, Troyer alleges.

“He knew who I was because he called me Mr. Sheriff.”

So what was the threat?

“He got out of the car and he said he was going to ‘take me out’ and he was verbally and physically walking toward me, being aggressive. I mean, he was yelling at me, and I just, I didn’t even engage. I just called and stayed back and didn’t engage with him,” Troyer said.

In the 911 recording, Troyer told the dispatcher that Altheimer “threatened to kill me” and asked for two patrol cars for assistance. But 42 officers from multiple agencies were sent to the call, though “most were called off when Tacoma police arrived,” according to the Times.

When officers arrived, the incident was cleared up. Altheimer was delivering newspapers as part of his normal delivery route. Altheimer told the Seattle Times that he didn’t say he was a delivery driver until Tacoma PD arrived on scene.

Framing racial profiling: The Seattle Times

The Seattle Times frames this story as an incident of racial profiling. The headline leads with Altheimer’s race.

Though they don’t present any evidence, the piece seems written to convince you Troyer is guilty of pulling Altheimer over for being Black. It took only four sentences for them to introduce the idea of racial profiling, though journalists Jim Brunner and Lewis Kamb don’t attribute the claim to the driver until paragraph 15.

They introduce racial profiling, out of nowhere, in a way that I think is meant to intentionally plant the seeds in the minds of the readers. That way, as the readers take in all the details, they’re already wondering if Troyer is guilty.

Missing details

Brunner and Kamb also say Troyer “recanted” the claim of a threat, citing the police report that says Troyer advised that the driver “never threatened him.” But this is in dispute.

Troyer said, “how that got in there or how that got misinterpreted, I don’t know, but I made it perfectly clear I wanted nothing more ill to come on him.”

And Troyer says he specifically told Brunner that he never recanted. But Troyer’s side didn’t make it into the story. Why not?

Brunner and Kamb allowed Altheimer to make claims that were not part of the incident report. That is routine. But what they included positions Troyer as guilty, while making excuses for questionable statements by Altheimer.

A large piece of their story — that Troyer recanted — is in dispute, and they don’t offer Troyer space to explain how or why. That, apparently, is somehow irrelevant. But leaving it out makes Troyer seem like a liar.

Perhaps the reporters didn’t trust Troyer’s recollection. Fair enough. But why do they trust Altheimer? His positions are contradictory.

Altheimer makes questionable claims

There are a few statements and actions by Altheimer that are suspicious, though they get a pass from Brunner and Kamb.

According to Altheimer, Troyer denied being racist and pointed to his Black wife as proof. But Troyer is married to an Asian American. He has a Black grandson, though “grandson” wouldn’t be confused with “wife.”

Altheimer told the Seattle Times he didn’t know who Troyer was. And Brunner and Kamb point out early on in their piece that Troyer never identified himself as law enforcement.

But the incident report says Altheimer “acknowledged that he knew who [Troyer] was.”

Unlike with Troyer disputing a key detail, Brunner and Kamb give Altheimer the opportunity to clear things up: He says he only knew of Troyer after someone at the scene identified him.

Also curious: If Altheimer didn’t know who Troyer was, how’d he know where he lived?

Troyer tells me that 30 minutes after the incident, Altheimer allegedly returned to his home and dropped off a newspaper. Are we to believe that Troyer got out of his house so quickly that the driver was still nearby and immediately felt like he was being followed?

Altheimer admits, via the Seattle Times, that he visited at least twice. This is, of course, creepy and mildly threatening, but Brunner and Kamb present it as noble. Altheimer claimed, “I said, hey, come join my business, so you know I’m a trustworthy man of your neighborhood.”

Despicable smears come from the media, activists

From bloggers and cartoonists to morning radio DJs and a BET writer, Troyer faced some blatant lies and pretty vicious smears since the Seattle Times piece broke.

Blogger Erica C. Barnett tweeted that Troyer “called more than 40 cops to the scene,” though that’s not even alleged. This is the kind of message you send when you skim a story for details to take out of context in a tweet you intend to use as a smear. Troyer clearly asks for two cars in the 911 call.

Left-wing cartoonist Chris Britt portrayed Troyer as a Klansman, along with an implication that he threatened to shoot Altheimer. He spent the weekend tweeting his comic to people for attention. He found random tweets showing support for Troyer. He responded to the people by posting his comic.

A Tacoma News Tribune editorial shamelessly claimed Troyer “tailed a 24-year-old Black man driving through Troyer’s neighborhood for the oh-so-suspicious behavior of delivering newspapers.” They’re lying here to forward their agenda of ending the practice of electing sheriffs. The TNT wokescolds want so desperately to be like Seattle and King County so they routinely adopt the language of those activists.

Weirdly, KXXO DJ Ann D’Angelo asked, “Why does he [Troyer] seem so defensive?”

That’s definitely not a dumb question. I mean, who among us would be defensive (or worse: angry) when falsely labeled a racist?

The story got national attention from Paul Meara of BET. Too bad he didn’t appear to even read the story. The headline claims Troyer “admits lying” about the threats. He did no such thing.

Meanwhile, anti-police activists do what they normally do.

A small group showed up outside Troyer’s house on Sunday to harass him and his family. The Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance said Troyer should have been arrested.

Brunner accused of bias by Troyer

An objective story wouldn’t have stopped the anti-police rhetoric from spewing. That’s what activists and like-minded politicians do. But it could have at least helped position the story in more fair terms for the public. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that, despite a history from Brunner of offering, in my view, mostly fair coverage (whereas I view Kamb as a partisan).

Troyer said he could tell how the story was going to be framed in his conversations with Brunner.

“I could tell how this article is going to come out because of the way the questioning was going and ignoring of what I had to say,” Troyer said of the few times he spoke to Brunner for the story.

Kamb never contacted Troyer for the piece.

“It was probably the worst-portrayed, unfair article in my whole entire career that I’ve ever read or seen,” Troyer told me.

What’s worse, Troyer says in one of his conversations with Brunner, the journalist admitted that this wouldn’t be a story if the driver was white.

“I asked Jim Brunner, I said, ‘if this individual would have been white would this have been a story?” and he said, ‘No, but it’s a sign of the times.'”

Brunner disputes this recollection.

“Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer is misstating what I told him,” Brunner told me in a statement. “He asked me if it would be a story if the guy was white, and my recollection is I said, well I didn’t know or wasn’t sure because that wasn’t the case here. But I said the fact that Sedrick is Black matters given current events.”

Perhaps what matters more is that Troyer is white and in law enforcement. And current events portray all cops as, well, you know what the “B” stands for in “ACAB.”

Now what?

You have two conflicting stories.

Troyer said he was threatened and that he didn’t racially profile anyone. He is a cop who saw something objectively suspicious. Anyone who says it’s not suspicious for a driver going house to house, in the middle of the night, with headlights off is lying to you. The only way Altheimer’s actions could be seen as normal would be if you knew he was a paper delivery man. Anyone claiming that you should expect this at 2 a.m. because that’s when deliveries happen are revealing their partisan hackery to you. Reject it.

Altheimer says he never threatened Troyer and he didn’t know who the sheriff was at the time. We should also acknowledge that Altheimer’s angry reaction also makes sense. He knows he’s delivering newspapers and didn’t do anything wrong when the sheriff pulled up behind him. Brunner is right when mentioning current events. They falsely tell every Black man that when you’re interacting with a cop, you’ll be the victim of deadly racism. That rhetoric needlessly leads to more tense interactions with police. I understand why he was upset and frightened.

Beyond the conflicting statements, it’s also important to note that both sides are likely misremembering parts of what happened that night.

So who to believe?

So how do we judge the incident? Who do we trust? I err on the side of Troyer.

Do I have a pro-police bias? Unquestionably. Do media outlets and activists have an anti-police bias? Undeniably.

So, go with the facts. None presented suggest this was racially motivated. You’d have to make up facts not in evidence to label this racial profiling. Every instance of a cop pulling over a Black driver isn’t racial profiling. One’s desire to view everything as racist is not a substitute for evidence of racism. We’d be better served collectively fighting against actual racist incidents.

There are bad faith partisans who pray every day for a racist event they could call out to make themselves feel like heroes fighting injustice. They see everything through the lens of critical race theory and, thus, see everything as racist.

And unless you start calling this nonsense out — including the politicians who pander to it — not only will more people be falsely smeared, but the division will continue.

(Update at 3:22pm on March 22nd: I added a short section detailing the Tacoma News Tribune’s editorial on the topic.)

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagram, and Parler and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: No evidence, but sheriff smeared as racist by media, activists — time to push back