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Pierce County wants to hire former US attorney to investigate sheriff's actions

In this Feb. 18, 2020, photo, then-Pierce County Sheriff's Department spokesman Ed Troyer answers questions during a news conference in Tacoma. Troyer was elected Pierce County sheriff in November.
Ted S. Warren
/
The Associated Press file
Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer

The Pierce County Council has chosen to hire former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran for an independent investigation of Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer’s controversial confrontation with a Black newspaper carrier on his delivery route.

The council on Tuesday unanimously authorized spending up to $50,000 for the investigation.

The review will examine whether Troyer, who is white, misused his authority, committed a crime or deviated from professional standards, including honesty, and whether there's a pattern of such violations, according to the proposed scope of work.

“There were a few candidates, but this one hit all the right things that we were looking for in terms of background experience and not being perceived as having one particular leaning,” Chairman Derek Young said of Moran in a Monday council study session, The News Tribune reported.

Moran has not yet formally agreed to do the investigation, council spokesperson Brynn Grimley said.

The probe will extend beyond the Jan. 27 incident involving Sedrick Altheimer, and will examine some of Troyer’s conduct before becoming sheriff this year. That includes statements he made as a sheriff’s office spokesman about the March 2020 killing of Manuel Ellis by Tacoma police. Those comments echoed officers’ version of events, which were later contradicted by eyewitnesses and videos.

Troyer said he’ll cooperate with the council’s investigation.

“I welcome a fair and independent and thorough investigation. I don’t believe any policies or laws were broken,” he said in an email.

He has faced calls for his resignation over his run-in with Altheimer, who was working his route when Troyer began following him, saying he believed Altheimer was driving suspiciously.

Troyer then triggered a large police response when he called 911 to report Altheimer threatened to kill him. Upon questioning, Troyer walked back his claim about death threats, according to a Tacoma police incident report.

Newly released Tacoma police body-camera video shows Altheimer repeatedly telling police he had made no threats.

“He’s lying. He’s lying. So what happens to him?” Altheimer asks officers in the video. Later he again asks whether Troyer will face consequences for “that false accusation.” An officer responds, “I am not going to blow smoke ... and say something is going to be done about it.”

Absent from the body camera recordings released by Tacoma police is footage of the police interview with Troyer. Tacoma officer Chad Lawless wrote in his incident report that he mistakenly left his camera at a police station in his haste to respond to the “officer needs help” call.

Troyer has previously said he did nothing wrong and rejected accusations that he targeted Altheimer because of his race.

While the council has the authority to investigate, it is unclear what can the council can do with the findings. The sheriff is an independently elected official who does not report to the county executive or to the County Council.

KNKX staff contributed to this report.

 

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