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May 7, 2021

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Investigator to probe sheriff’s conduct after incident with Black newspaper carrier


SEATTLE – The Pierce County Council will hire an independent investigator to probe Sheriff Ed Troyer’s conduct during a Jan. 27 confrontation with a Black newspaper carrier near his Tacoma home.

Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young announced the investigation Tuesday afternoon after a closed council executive session, directing council staff to “begin the process” of finding someone to conduct an investigation “into the events recently reported in the news media” about Troyer.

Few details were immediately released. In a news release, the council said the timeline for the investigation would depend on details of whatever contract proposal is brought to the council.

Troyer did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment. He previously has said he would welcome an independent investigation into the Jan. 27 incident in which he called emergency dispatchers after mistaking a Black newspaper carrier for a prowler.

Troyer, who is independently elected and does not report to the council, has faced calls from some civil rights advocates and Democratic organizations for his resignation or suspension over the Jan. 27 encounter, first reported by The Seattle Times last week.

He has rebuffed those calls, saying he didn’t do anything wrong.

Troyer says he did not know the race of the carrier, 24-year-old Sedrick Altheimer, when he got in his personal SUV to investigate what he said was a suspicious vehicle near his home.

After following and getting into a standoff at around 2 a.m., Troyer called emergency dispatchers, repeatedly saying Altheimer was threatening to kill him. That drew a massive police response, with more than 40 units rushing toward the scene, though most were called off after Tacoma police arrived.

Altheimer, who was delivering papers on his regular route, said he never threatened Troyer and that the aggressive police response left him fearing for his life.

Upon questioning by Tacoma police, Troyer backed off his claim about death threats, saying Altheimer “never threatened him,” according to a police incident report.

Troyer has maintained the report by Officer Chad Lawless is inaccurate and that Altheimer did threaten him but that he didn’t want to press charges. A Tacoma police spokesperson said this week the department stands by Lawless’ report.

The council news release said more information about the investigation will be forthcoming. “As this process moves forward, Council is committed to keeping the public informed and will provide regular updates,” the news release said.