Black newspaper carrier who was confronted by sheriff testifies at trial

Sedrick Altheimer, on the stand Tuesday, told Tacoma jurors he did not threaten Ed Troyer in January 2021, as the Pierce County sheriff claimed.

A Black newspaper carrier confronted by a sheriff in Washington state in what he calls a racial profiling incident took the stand Tuesday in the sheriff’s criminal trial on false reporting charges.

According to The Seattle Times, Sedrick Altheimer, 26, recalled delivering newspapers on his usual route in Tacoma, Washington, while being followed by Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer on Jan. 27, 2021.

An immense late-night police response resulted from the sheriff’s nearly five-minute call just after 2 a.m. to a 911 dispatcher over an internal line, in which Troyer asserted he “caught someone in my driveway who just threatened to kill me, and I’ve blocked him in.”

Newspaper carrier Sedrick Altheimer (right), testifying in court Tuesday, recalled delivering papers on his regular route in Tacoma, Washington, in January 2021 and being followed by Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer in his unmarked white SUV. (Photo: Screenshot/ 5)

Troyer reportedly recanted his threat accusations when questioned by a Tacoma officer.

“I get held at gunpoint. I get questioned and pulled out of my vehicle,” Altheimer testified, according to The Times. “Frisked. Asked questions. Treated like a suspect.”

In October of last year, Troyer was charged with misdemeanor counts of false reporting and making a false or misleading statement to a public official. He entered a not-guilty plea, and throughout the trial, his defense team has tried to cast doubt on the validity of Altheimer’s testimony and the Tacoma Police Department’s version of events.

While he claimed to be the victim of racial profiling, Altheimer admitted he was unsure whether Troyer was aware he was Black when the sheriff started following him in his unmarked white SUV. He also conceded that Troyer did not use racially derogatory comments.

Troyer said he was unaware of Altheimer’s race when he began to follow him after spotting what he thought to be a suspicious-looking Geo Prizm sedan.

Altheimer, who stepped toward Troyer’s SUV eventually, testified Troyer never revealed himself as police, but did ask the newspaper carrier if he was a thief.

“He accused me of being a porch pirate, and he just talked to me like I was a lost boy,” Altheimer said, The Times reported.

But speaking to his dispatcher at the time of the encounter, Troyer said, “He’s in some sort of gray car, and he was in my driveway and in my neighbor’s driveway, and he knows who I am and he threatened to kill me, and I’ve got him blocked in.” The Seattle Times obtained a copy of the phone call via a Public Records Act request.

The hotline dispatcher asked him if the man he sees is armed, and Troyer responded: “I have no idea. He looks homeless in his car. He was in my driveway, and I got in my car, and he was in my neighbor’s driveway and tried to get in my garage.”

Troyer, in the call, goes on to claim “I’m trying to be polite to him, but he says I’m a racist and wants to kill me, so.”

Despite what the sheriff informed the emergency operator, Altheimer testified Tuesday that he never threatened to hurt or kill Troyer.

During the trial, prosecutors planned to summon police officer Chad Lawless, who spoke with Troyer the night of the incident and noted in his incident report that the sheriff stated Altheimer had never threatened him.

Lawless and a few other officers called to testify invoked their Fifth Amendment rights. Initially, they refused to answer questions because they feared a subsequent hostile environment toward police. Judge Jeffrey Jahns rejected the Fifth Amendment arguments.

Anne Bremner, Troyer’s primary defense counsel, brought up Altheimer’s $5 million lawsuit that she had filed against Pierce County. She also mentioned his prior run-ins with both police and area residents who had followed him or inquired as to his intentions while making late-night newspaper deliveries.

Altheimer also admitted to being “kind of a smart A-S-S” in response to throwing a copy of The News Tribune newspaper onto Troyer’s driveway after the incident that night, an act the defense characterized as “malicious.”

Bremner frequently emphasized that Altheimer was not detained and referred to the situation as “a nonevent,” even attempting to persuade him to agree.

Instead, Altheimer spoke of receiving orders from armed police offices to remain still and to raise his hands.

“Something did happen,” Altheimer said, The Times reported. “I almost lost my life. For a lie.”

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