Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer found not guilty on both counts
After deliberating for about a day, a jury found Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer not guilty of two misdemeanor charges.
Supporters sitting behind Troyer in the courtroom appeared to be hugging, crying, and quietly celebrating.
The six-person jury was all male and a majority white.
Washington's state attorney general charged Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer with two misdemeanors, one count of false reporting and another count of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant. The standard sentencing range for both offenses — for someone with no criminal history — is up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
Troyer is a former detective and longtime spokesperson for the Pierce County Sheriff's department. He was elected as sheriff in November 2020.
It's unclear how these charges affect Troyer's role as sheriff. Although, the fallout has landed Troyer on the county’s so-called Brady list, which formally casts doubt on his credibility as a law enforcement officer.
The charges stemmed from a confrontation the sheriff had with a Black newspaper carrier, then-24-year-old Sedrick Altheimer, in Troyer’s Tacoma neighborhood on the night of Jan. 27, 2021.
Just months into his new role as sheriff, Troyer said he noticed a vehicle pulling in and out driveways in his neighborhood late at night. He decided to follow the vehicle to get a license plate. He said when he found the vehicle, the driver got out of his car and confronted him.
Troyer called an inside law enforcement line and told 911 dispatchers the driver, Altheimer, threatened to kill him. He repeated the claim four times during the call. The call led dispatchers to initiate an “officer needs help” call, the highest priority call possible.
It alerted over 40 officers across the county to Troyer’s location. Minutes later, after the first officers arrived, the call was downgraded to let other officers know the situation wasn't as dangerous as they thought and they weren't needed.
Altheimer, who is currently suing the county and the sheriff for $5 million in damages, denied ever threatening Troyer. The police report of the incident indicated Troyer said there actually wasn’t a threat.
During the trial, Assistant Attorney General Melanie Tratnik, argued the sheriff lied and "weaponized the police force to settle a personal petty score with a man who didn't treat them with the deference and the respect that he felt he deserved."
Troyer's defense lawyer, Anne Bremner, argued the trial was a politically motivated campaign against a well-established "great man" who stood wrongfully accused.
"Why would Sheriff Troyer make this up?” Bremner said. “For what purpose on God’s green earth would he do that? There is absolutely no reason he would ever do that.”
Several Tacoma police officers testified they did not hear Troyer mention any threat when they arrived on the scene.
The first officer to arrive at the scene and interview Troyer, Tacoma Detective Chad Lawless, downgraded the call and filed the official police report. He testified on the stand during the trial that he asked Troyer twice whether Altheimer threatened him and Troyer responded “no” both times in addition to shaking his head “no” indicating Troyer was walking back the threat that led to such a heavy emergency response.
Troyer testified, when asked about the threats that night his response was “I’m not worried about the threats.” Troyer said he never denied being threatened or recanted his claim. He said the police report and investigation into the incident was poorly done. Troyer's defense blamed the 911 dispatchers for the heavy police response, saying later in the call he only asked for one or two police cars to come.
Tratnik asked Troyer how he would have handled the situation if one of his deputies were in the position he was in on the night of the incident.
“Would you, if one of your deputies called and said that their life had been threatened outside of their home by someone who knows they’re a cop - if one of your deputies said that to a 911 dispatcher - wouldn’t you want 911 to send everyone?” Tratnik asked.
“No,” Troyer said.
The state called 11 witnesses to testify including the 911 dispatchers who took Troyer’s call, several officers who arrived on scene and said they were under the impression the Sheriff’s life was in danger, and Sedrick Altheimer.
The defense called five witnesses to testify including Troyer’s wife, and Tacoma businessman and unsuccessful politician Josh Harris who came forward to report his own confrontation with Altheimer. Troyer himself took the stand in his own defense. He told the jury he was eager to tell his side of the story.
"The media's made me out to be racist," Troyer said. "And the state's made me out to be a liar."