Washington State Sheriff Decides That Delivering Newspapers While Black Is a Crime

Illustration for article titled Washington State Sheriff Decides That Delivering Newspapers While Black Is a Crime
Image: Ted S. Warren (AP)
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Sheriff Ed Troyer of Pierce County in Washington state has a lot of trouble knowing who is doing crime and who is delivering newspapers, according to a recent 911 call in which he reported a Black newspaper delivery person was threatening to “kill” him, when what he was actually doing was placing newspapers in the driveways of people who had paid for that service.

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Sedrick Altheimer was working his newspaper delivery route when he says Sheriff Troyer began following him, eventually leading to a confrontation wherein Troyer called 911 and said his life was in danger, according to The Washinton Post:

“Altheimer [...] noticed Troyer following him as he tossed newspapers into driveways, before the sheriff, who did not identify himself as law enforcement, questioned what he was doing and accused him of stealing packages from people’s porches. When Altheimer asked Troyer whether he was targeting him because he was Black, Troyer told him he had a Black wife, he said.”

After this exchange, Troyer then called 911 and claimed that he was both detaining Altheimer in his own driveway and that Altheimer had trapped Troyer in the driveway. The one bit of information that was clear to the dispatcher at the time was that Troyer claimed Altheimer had threatened his life, which meant 42 police units from multiple agencies were dispatched to the scene, putting Altheimer’s own life in danger.

To the numerous officers that arrived on scene, Troyer denied that he’d said he feared for his life, though the dispatcher said that so many officers never would have been sent to the scene had Troyer not made the situation seem dire, according to The Seattle Times:

“Despite what the Tacoma police report says about the Jan. 27 incident — that Troyer advised officers that Altheimer “never threatened him” — the sheriff again claimed in a phone interview on Friday that the newspaper carrier did make threats to kill him.”

This recent tattling on Black man for doing his job also raises questions about Troyer’s potential bias in other cases: particularly the 2020 police killing of Manuel Ellis, which when Troyer was working as the department’s spokesperson.

Not one to stick to a single story, Troyer now says the only reason that he told officers that Altheimer wasn’t trying to kill was that he is a good guy who did want Altheimer to get into trouble. “I wanted to let it go once we found out who he was,” Troyer wrote in an email, adding that in in his 35 years on the force no one else has described him as racist. 

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Letting it go was probably a great idea at 2 A.M. when Sedrick Altheimer was trying to mind his own business and do his job. But amid calls for Troyer’s resignation and in light of Manuel Ellis’s death, I sincerely hope that no one allows Troyer to “let it go,” presumably back to a status quo where delivering newspapers while Black is a potentially deadly “crime.”

DISCUSSION

Ignatius Reilly's Valve

in his 35 years on the force no one else has described him as racist.

Oh thank God. For a minute there I thought he might be racist.