A Black newspaper carrier confronted by Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer in January has filed a legal claim against the county, seeking at least $5 million in damages.
Attorneys representing Sedrick Altheimer submitted the tort claim Tuesday, contending Troyer’s actions during the controversial Jan. 27 incident violated Altheimer’s constitutional rights and caused him “severe emotional distress.”
Altheimer’s attorneys, Susan Mindenbergs and Vonda Sargent, did not comment Wednesday. A copy of the tort claim — a precursor to a potential lawsuit — was released by Pierce County’s risk management office after a public-records request.
The tort claim says witnesses will attest to harm caused by the “racial profiling, false arrest and unnecessary use of excessive force” on Altheimer, “whose only crime was ‘being a black man in a white neighborhood.'”
Troyer, who faces multiple investigations over the incident, has denied wrongdoing and says he did not racially profile Altheimer.
Asked for comment Wednesday, Troyer did not directly address the tort claim, but said in an email he welcomes a “complete, full and independent investigation” and that he and his office will be “fully cooperative.”
Altheimer, 24, was driving his regular delivery route Jan. 27 when Troyer began following him in his personal SUV.
The two wound up in a 2 a.m. standoff in which Troyer called emergency dispatchers, repeatedly saying Altheimer had threatened to kill him.
That call sparked a massive police response, with more than 40 units from various police agencies rushing toward the scene. Most were called off after Tacoma police arrived, but Altheimer was “confronted at gun point, removed from his vehicle [and] frisked for weapons all while trying to explain he was at work,” the tort claim states.
Upon questioning by a Tacoma police officer, Troyer walked back his claim that Altheimer threatened him, according to a police report. He has disputed the police report’s account.
In an interview in March, Altheimer said he was shocked and frightened by the large police response called in by Troyer to a quiet Tacoma neighborhood. “That’s the crazy thing. I never did threaten him. I was just asking questions, like ‘Are you a cop?’” he said at the time.
Troyer, who did not identify himself to Altheimer as a law enforcement officer, has previously stated he started following the newspaper deliveryman because he saw a driver he believed was behaving suspiciously near his home.
Body camera recordings from that night show Altheimer visibly frustrated at the aggressive police response, which included at least one officer with his gun drawn. Noticeably absent from those recordings were any showing Tacoma police questioning Troyer; the officer who wrote the report said he mistakenly left his camera at a police station in his rush to respond to the scene.
The incident, which remained secret until The Seattle Times reported it in March, has led to calls for Troyer’s resignation, and the state Attorney General’s Office has opened a criminal investigation into potential false-reporting charges.
Separately, the Pierce County Council has hired former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran to examine whether Troyer violated Sheriff’s Department policies or professional standards. Black Lives Matter activists also have asked the FBI to open a civil rights probe.
Troyer has said he welcomes such investigations and will cooperate. A 35-year veteran of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, he served for years as the agency’s media spokesperson before winning election as sheriff in November 2020.
Altheimer has worked as a newspaper carrier for Steiner Distribution since 2015, “and is considered a reliable and hard worker,” the tort claim states, noting he is the primary support for his five children “and works hard to fulfill his obligations.”