TACOMA, Wash. - Closing arguments finished on Tuesday in the criminal trial against Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer. The sheriff was accused of falsely reporting that a newspaper carrier was threatening to kill him during an incident in January 2021.
Jury deliberation will begin on Wednesday to reach a verdict in the case.
During closing arguments, Anne Bremner, Troyer’s defense attorney, said Troyer has consistently told his truth about the day in question.
"The evidence never lies. Evidence doesn’t lie. It is what it is and you have that evidence here that the sheriff never denied being threatened," said Bremner.
Melanie Tratnik, an assistant attorney general with Washington State Attorney General’s Office, said Troyer lied and put himself above his community.
"On January 27, Sheriff Troyer weaponized the police force to settle a personal petty score with a man who didn’t treat him the deference and the respect that he felt he deserved," said Tratnik.
Sedrick Altheimer was delivering newspapers in Tacoma’s Vista View neighborhood on Jan. 27, 2021, when he said Troyer began following him. Troyer’s attorneys said Altheimer was the aggressor, claiming he threatened the sheriff. Troyer testified it looked like Altheimer, "was ready to fight," and he never mentioned he was a paper carrier.
Bremner recalled Altheimer’s testimony, reminding the jury, "He said, Are you a cop? Why are you following me?’ And, ‘Is it because I’m Black?’ He said I asked those three things of the sheriff. If you believe that, that he asked those three things and nothing else happened, then that would have been a non-event. And we wouldn’t be here, there wouldn’t be call for backup."
The sheriff called South Sound 911 on a law-enforcement-only line claiming Altheimer was threatening to kill him. More than 40 officers were initially dispatched, and about 10 arrived on the scene. After further assessment, Officer Chad Lawless, who was the primary officer on the scene, made the decision to downgrade the call and requested not to send additional officers.
"When Sheriff Troyer lied to 911 that night, he put himself over everyone else. Above the needs of every officer who rushed to the scene, above the needs of a community that has the same rights to have its officers available to them as Sheriff Troyer does, and above the needs of Mr. Altheimer and others who are trying to go about their business without fear and intimidation," said Tratnik.
"Why would Sheriff Troyer make this up? Think about it. Why would Sheriff Troyer lie? That’s what he’s charged with. And says that he was threatened by Mr. Altheimer. For what purpose on God’s green earth would he do that?" argued Bremner.
Lawless testified he asked Troyer twice if he was threatened and if he saw any weapons. Lawless said Troyer told him no each time. The officer’s statements were some of the main discussion points in closing arguments on both sides.
"Officer Lawless was supposed to have a body camera on. He didn’t have one on. If he’d have one on, there’d be a different story because there’s a conversation between three people—Officer Lawless Officer Hobbs and the sheriff," said Bremner.
"There is no way Officer Lawless got this conversation wrong. He was there to determine one thing and one thing only: was the sheriff’s life threatened? That is a hugely important thing and it’s not something you’re going to risk getting wrong. You would never walk away from this scene without being absolutely sure to get this life and death situation right. And Officer Lawless, and any officer for that matter, would have never released Mr. Altheimer without first making sure that there was no threat to Sheriff Troyer," argued Tratnik.
Washington State Attorney General’s Office charged Troyer with misdemeanor counts of false reporting and making a false or misleading statement to a public servant. Troyer has pleaded not guilty.