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Newspaper carrier files federal lawsuit over confrontation with Pierce County sheriff

Ed Troyer answers questions during a news conference.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press file
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.

A newspaper carrier involved in a January confrontation with Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer has filed a federal lawsuit against the county.

The lawsuit alleges Troyer violated the constitutional rights of the carrier, Sedrick Altheimer, by prompting a massive police response with claims to an emergency dispatcher that Altheimer had threatened to kill him.

Troyer walked back those claims amid questioning by a Tacoma police officer, leading the state attorney general’s office to charge him last week with false reporting and making a false statement to a civil servant, both misdemeanors.

Troyer has denied wrongdoing and called the charges politically motivated. Lawyers representing him and Pierce County did not respond immediately to requests for comment from the newspaper.

The lawsuit claims Troyer’s actions on Jan. 27 — calling in the police response after trailing Altheimer, who is Black, in his personal SUV and not identifying himself as law enforcement — amount to “false reporting, unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest and malicious prosecution.”

Altheimer wasn't arrested, but he was frisked and questioned by police. The lawsuit also alleges Troyer acted due to “racial animus” and “reckless disregard for Mr. Altheimer’s civil rights.”

Troyer, who is white, has said he did not know Altheimer's race when he began following him, saying he left his home because he thought he saw a suspicious car.

The lawsuit was quietly filed in September in King County Superior Court and transferred to U.S. District Court last week following a request by an attorney for Pierce County. It seeks damages for emotional distress and trauma as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

Altheimer in June filed a tort claim against the county as a precursor to the lawsuit, seeking at least $5 million.

Additionally, the Pierce County Council is expected to receive a report detailing findings of another investigation into Troyer’s conduct as early as Tuesday. That report, by former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran, is expected to focus on whether Troyer violated ethical standards and department policies, and to recommend potential sanctions if violations are found.

Troyer has faced calls for his resignation since January incident was reported publicly in March. He has refused to resign and vowed to fight the allegations against him.

“We can either have a safe community where police are allowed to do their job or we can have the cops handcuffed and the criminals run free,” he said in a statement last week.

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