State BLM group calls on FBI to open investigation into Pierce County Sheriff
The Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance (WBLMA) issued a letter to the FBI’s Seattle office this week, calling on the department to open an investigation into Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer over a January incident where he called the police on a Black newspaper delivery driver.
The WBLMA outlined a list of allegations in its petition to the FBI, including that Troyer “abused his authority,” violated the civil rights of a private citizen “engaged in lawful acts,” obstructed justice, and flouted the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.
“Mr. Troyer weaponized his standing as a law enforcement official in order to cause multiple law enforcement jurisdictions to respond with priority designation to a false 911 call made by Mr. Troyer, alleging threats against his life, thereby engaging in multiple violations of Color of Law, and jeopardizing the health and safety of community members,” the letter reads.
The incident in question was first reported on by the Seattle Times, describing how Troyer had reported seeing a car moving in and out of a neighbor’s driveway at 2 a.m. with its headlights off. He then confronted the driver, identified as 24-year-old Sedrick Altheimer, before making a call to dispatch that had an estimated 42 units from around the region to the scene.
Troyer claimed three separate times in the call that Altheimer had threatened to kill him. Altheimer has since denied he made any such threats, while a statement taken by a Tacoma police officer at the scene says that the Pierce County Sheriff later advised him he was “never threatened.”
“When a member of law enforcement calls 911 and claims his life is under threat or in danger, whether on duty or not, that officer knows they will get a rapid, aggressive response,” the WBLMA’s letter continues. “When that person is the Sheriff, such a response is essentially mandatory, and those who are responding are prepared to use all manner of force to protect another member of law enforcement.”
This marks the second time the WBLMA has asked an outside agency to take action against Troyer stemming from that January incident. In late March, it filed a petition with the state’s Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC), asking it to review Troyer’s status as a certified peace officer, and immediately suspend that status pending the outcome of an investigation.
The CJTC responded quickly, stating that it’s only allowed to take action to decertify an officer “under very specific criteria.” That criteria is limited to instances where an officer has either been convicted for a felony offense, or has been “discharged for disqualifying conduct.” Because of that, the CJTC opted not to fulfill the WBLMA’s request.
A separate investigation commissioned by the Pierce County Council was set into motion in early April, with former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran tagged to lead the effort.
Over the course of the inquiry, Moran will be directed to “determine the facts of what occurred” during the incident with the newspaper delivery driver, whether Troyer abused his authority during that incident, whether Troyer’s actions were racially motivated, and if there’s an established history of similar incidents involving the sheriff.