TACOMA — The sheriff of Pierce County sparked a large police response in late January after confronting a Black newspaper carrier driving near his home, telling a 911 dispatcher the man “threatened to kill me.”
The Seattle Times reports that Sheriff Ed Troyer retracted that allegation upon questioning by Tacoma police. Following the newspaper’s report about the incident, elected officials in Pierce County and others on Friday called for an investigation.
Troyer said he would be open to an independent investigation. “In 35 years, I have never had a complaint against me for racial bias,” he told the newspaper.
The 24-year-old carrier, Sedrick Altheimer, said the early morning encounter on Jan. 27 left him afraid and angry at Troyer — who was driving an unmarked, personal SUV and didn’t identify himself as law enforcement.
Troyer, who is white, said he did not racially profile Altheimer. He said he began following the carrier because he saw a driver he believed was behaving suspiciously in his neighborhood in Tacoma.
“There is nothing to do with him being Black,” Troyer said.
Troyer’s call to a 911 dispatcher, which came in shortly after 2 a.m., spurred an urgent countywide alert that sent more than 40 officers from multiple agencies rushing toward the scene, public records show. Most were called off after Tacoma police arrived.
“I’m yelling ‘What are you guys here for? What am I doing wrong? You guys are trying to arrest a paper carrier!’” Altheimer said.
Early on Jan. 27, Altheimer was working his regular delivery route in his Geo Prizm in Tacoma’s West End when, he said, he noticed a white SUV following him.
“I’m throwing papers out the window, left and right, both windows are down,” Altheimer said. He said he didn’t know it was the county sheriff behind the wheel of the unmarked Chevy Tahoe.
When a responding police officer asked Troyer whether he had been threatened, as his call to dispatchers repeatedly had claimed, the sheriff “advised that (Altheimer) never threatened him” and said he had seen no weapons. Still, Troyer said, he was sure that Altheimer “wanted to fight,” according to the police report.
After conferring with Troyer and a Tacoma police sergeant, a responding police officer released Altheimer.
“All he had to do is calmly say, ‘Hey, I am delivering newspapers,’” Troyer said.
In a statement released Friday, the Pierce County Council said it wanted more information about the incident. “We take this situation seriously and know that public trust in law enforcement is paramount,” the statement said.
The sheriff is an elected position and not under the control of the council.
In a statement released late Friday, Troyer said he is committed to policing that is free of racial bias. He said he felt his actions were appropriate on the night in question but he was “saddened” that Altheimer felt he was treated unfairly.
Troyer is a 35-year veteran of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. He for years served as the agency’s public face and media spokesperson before being elected sheriff in November.