Jury selection begins for Pierce County Sheriff trial

Nov 21, 2022, 4:31 PM | Updated: Nov 22, 2022, 2:35 am
Ed Troyer Pierce County Sheriff...
Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of false reporting. (Photo courtesy KIRO 7 News)
(Photo courtesy KIRO 7 News)

Nearly two years after Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer prompted a massive police response by reporting a Black man threatened to kill him, his trial for false reporting has been delayed one more week after an illness struck the defendant.

Troyer has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of false reporting.

“Sheriff Troyer tested negative for COVID at the hospital but positive for Influenza A,” Troyer’s attorney, Anne Bremner, said. “He is severely dehydrated and is getting fluids. He is undergoing more tests. He apparently had COVID antibodies in his system from a prior bout with COVID.”

He reportedly came down with the flu after his defense initially claimed he had COVID early Monday. He took two rapid tests, one came back negative while another had a faint red line, declaring it positive.

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In the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2021, Troyer said he was at his Tacoma home watching TV and noticed what he described as a suspicious vehicle moving in and out of driveways in his neighborhood. The sheriff got in his personal vehicle and followed the car.

At one point, the driver reportedly got out and approached Troyer to ask why he was following him. Eventually, Troyer said he called a law enforcement line and was patched through to a dispatcher.

The sheriff told the dispatcher three times during the five-minute call that the man had threatened to kill him, while also contradicting himself about whether the man had him blocked in. Troyer also described the man as “looking homeless.”

That man turned out to be Sedrick Altheimer – a Black newspaper delivery driver who was working his regular route the same as he’d done for eight years.

While Troyer did tell the dispatcher he only needed one or two people to respond, the fact that he reported the man had threatened to kill him led to a high-priority response involving 40 officers from various departments.

The first officers to respond were able to downsize that initial number after realizing there was no threat, and only 14 officers actually responded. Still, that response and his detainment led Altheimer to fear for his life, according to a civil lawsuit he’s since filed against Pierce County.

Altheimer’s account sparked a public outcry, leading Governor Inslee to call for an investigation into the incident. That led to charges filed by State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Office of one count of false reporting and one count of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant.

If convicted, Troyer could face nearly a year behind bars on each count, as well as a $5,000 fine. Troyer has continually denied wrongdoing, saying he was just checking a suspicious vehicle. He’s called the charges a “politically motivated anti-cop hit job.”

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A separate investigation commissioned by the Pierce County Council found Troyer had violated department policy on bias-free policing and off-duty conduct.

In July, the judge nearly jailed Troyer for violating an anti-harassment order in the case. Instead, he ordered Troyer to post a $100,000 bail after noting concern for Altheimer’s safety.

Jury selection in the criminal trial started Monday and was expected to continue Tuesday before Troyer reported he had the flu. If there is no delay in jury selection, opening statements are scheduled to begin Nov. 28, with the trial expected to last about a week and a half. If there is a delay, the proceedings won’t be expected to start until December.

“We will know more in the morning,” Bremner said.

Follow Hanna Scott on Twitter or email her here

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Jury selection begins for Pierce County Sheriff trial