State Attorney General to investigate Pierce County Sheriff for ‘potential criminal violations’
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that he has formally directed state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to open an investigation into Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer, stemming from a late-January incident where Troyer called the police on a Black newspaper delivery driver.
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.
The goal of the AG’s investigation will be to determine whether the sheriff committed any “potential criminal violations,” particularly regarding numerous claims from Troyer in his dispatch call that Altheimer had threatened his life. Altheimer 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 said he was “never threatened.”
In a letter addressed to Criminal Justice Division Chief John Hillman, Inslee noted that “initial reports of these events were very concerning to me.”
“I had hoped to see some action taken to initiate a criminal investigation at the local level. But, to my knowledge, that has not happened almost three months after the incident,” he noted. “So now the state is stepping in.”
Responding to Inslee’s request, Ferguson vowed to “conduct a diligent, fact-based review.” At the conclusion of the investigation, Ferguson’s office will “make the decision whether to initiate prosecution” against Troyer.
The Pierce County Council will soon be conducting its own inquiry into the events of that night, having tagged former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran to lead the effort. Because the sheriff is an elected office, though, the council’s ability to regulate and oversee Troyer should it conclude he violated any laws is significantly limited.
The Attorney General’s office has more latitude to investigate and potentially prosecute Troyer, with state law only requiring that it have approval from the governor or a county’s prosecuting attorney.
Troyer issued a response to the AG’s upcoming investigation shortly after it was announced, saying the following:
Just like with the local investigation being conducted by the Pierce County Council I welcome any and all inquiries into the event that occurred on January 27th. I and the department will fully cooperate with the investigation and look forward to it being done.
Earlier this week, the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance (WBLMA) issued a letter to the FBI’s Seattle office, similarly asking for a criminal investigation into Troyer.