Officer says he wanted to testify the 'facts' in trial against Sheriff Ed Troyer

Testimony was heard from one of the first officers who arrived on scene after Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer claimed his life was threatened in January 2021. 

Chad Lawless was one of at least 10 officers who arrived at Tacoma’s Vista View neighborhood on Jan. 27, 2021. Lawless, who was recently promoted to detective, said he was the primary officer at the scene on the day in question. 

Sedrick Altheimer, a Black newspaper carrier, said Troyer was following him while he was making deliveries. Troyer’s attorneys said he saw a car suspiciously going in and out of driveways at an odd time of night and felt the need to assess.

The defense argued Altheimer approached Troyer first. Troyer called South Sound 911 on a law-enforcement-only line, claiming Altheimer was threatening to kill him.

Lawless and his partner, Officer Corey Ventura, were first to arrive on scene. Lawless testified why his gun was drawn while Altheimer was sitting in his car.

"The call that we were getting was there was a threat on someone’s life. We need to, for our safety, make sure that if this is a suspect that he’s not armed. And then we can, from there, once we know the scene is safe, conduct a safe investigation as far as to find out what happened," said Lawless. 

He said after Ventura determined Altheimer was not armed, Lawless approached Troyer to ask him questions about the situation. State prosecutors asked Lawless, "Did he mention any threat at the time?" in which Lawless said ‘no.’

State prosecutors then asked what Lawless did next.

"Based on the nature of the call and the reason we were there, I asked him ‘did he make any threats toward you?’ And he said ‘no,’" said Lawless. "I asked a clarifying question ‘did he threaten you or did you see him armed with any weapons?’ And again he said ‘no.’ But he also said it was clear that he wanted to fight."

Pierce County Sheriff trial: Black newspaper carrier at center of false reporting call takes the stand

Sedrick Altheimer, a Black newspaper carrier at the center of the high profile criminal trial against Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer, is expected to take the stand Tuesday.

The state asked Lawless, "And why did you ask him twice whether he had been threatened?" Lawless responded, "I wanted to make sure that I heard him correctly, that I was getting the right information because it’s pretty critical as far as making a decision if I’m going to be able to develop probable cause to arrest somebody for a threats complaint."

About 40 officers were initially dispatched to the scene. But after further assessment, Lawless, being the primary officer, said he made the decision to downgrade the call and requested not to send additional officers.

"My exact words were ‘we don’t need the whole world here,’" said Lawless.

The defense questioned Lawless’ recollection and accuracy of the situation, asking why he did not complete his required police report until more than 24 hours afterwards. 

The defense also criticized his testimony. Lawless said he and Ventura were dispatched to Troyer’s home a few hours after the initial incident. He said this was because the sheriff called the same law-enforcement-only line to report Altheimer threw a newspaper in his driveway. 

"I thought that it was a little bit ridiculous that the sheriff would again call and say this. He didn’t articulate any crimes or any violence or anything as far as on the call," said Lawless.

In rebuttal, defense attorney asked, "You don’t understand why a person might be concerned, in Sheriff Troyer’s position, that the other party knew where he lived and returned to his house and threw a newspaper in his driveway?"

Lawless responded, "Then, the appropriate action would be to call 911."

It was revealed during trial that Troyer does not subscribe to a newspaper. When questioned why Altheimer made the delivery anyway, he said he did it out of spite. 

Defense witnesses began testifying late Tuesday afternoon. The first was a neighbor of Troyer’s, and the second was his wife, Wendy Kaleiwahea-Troyer. In a brief, emotional testimony, Kaleiwahea-Troyer said she was "just tired of it all" and wanted her family’s life to go back to how things were, saying, "we don't live like we used to." She said her relatives don’t visit their home as often because protestors were outside at one point.

Kaleiwahea-Troyer also mentioned she is Pacific Islander and that she and the sheriff have been married 23 years. She told the court they have cared for 40 foster children and even adopted three of them. She is scheduled to take the stand, Thursday, to continue her testimony.

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.