Testimony begins in trial for Pierce County Sheriff; responding officers take the stand

Testimony began on Thursday in the criminal trial against Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer

Troyer is accused of phoning in a false report of him being threatened by a man who turned out to be the neighborhood newspaper deliverer. That call to a South Sound 911 law enforcement-only line was at the center of the testimony on Thursday. 

Officials said Sedrick Altheimer, a Black man, was delivering newspapers in Tacoma on Jan. 27, 2021 when Troyer began following him in his personal car. State prosecutors said Altheimer got out of his car and approached Troyer to ask why he was being followed.

Conrad Shadel, a dispatcher who has worked at South Sound 911 for eight years, said Troyer called the law enforcement-only line around 2 a.m.

Shadel testified that during the call, Troyer reported four times that someone was trying to kill him.

A recording of the call was played during Shadel’s testimony. Troyer was heard saying, in part, "…in my driveway and my neighbor’s driveway. And he knows who I am and he tried to kill me and I’ve got him blocked in."

Melanie Tratnik, an assistant attorney general with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, asked Shadel: "Based on the information you were receiving for Sheriff Troyer, did you think he was in danger?" Shadel replied ‘yes’, saying, "Because he stated someone was threatening to kill him."

Shadel told the court he designated the call as Priority 0—the highest level of an emergency in the dispatch system. The dispatcher explained a LAHAR and a natural disaster are examples of Priority 0 calls.

The defense argued Shadel should have noted in his report to officers that Troyer specifically requested one or two officers to respond to the scene. That request was heard in the recording of the phone call.

Bremner asked Shadel: "At any time did Sheriff ask for a massive police response?" To which Shadel responded, "No, he did not."

That Priority 0 level prompted dispatch to 40 officers. Nine Tacoma Police Officers and at least one sheriff’s deputy were first to respond to the scene. After some assessment, Shadel said officers determined additional officers were not needed and downgraded the response call.

Former Tacoma officer Corey Ventura was the first to arrive and talk to Altheimer to detain him. Altheimer was not placed in handcuffs, but Ventura said he did frisk him for any potential weapons, which he had none. 

Ventura’s body camera video was shown to the court, where Altheimer is seen telling officers he was making deliveries in Tacoma when Troyer began following him.

In the video, Altheimer said, "Why are you following me? Because I’m a Black male in a white neighborhood? Do you know where you’re at?"

Altheimer also told officers he also knew Troyer was the sheriff.

Tacoma officer Aaron Baran also gave testimony. He said while responding to the scene, his partner pulled their gun out of their holster. Ventura said his partner had his gun drawn to the chest, not at his side or hip.

The trial is in recess until Monday when testimony continues. State prosecutors and defense have said Troyer and Altheimer would give testimony. 

There is no set date when either of them will take the witness stand.