Tacoma pastor calls Pierce County Sheriff’s acquittal ‘troubling but not surprising'
“Disappointing” and “troubling.” Those are the reactions of one Tacoma pastor to the not-guilty verdict for Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer.
This week a jury acquitted Troyer of both misdemeanor counts stemming from his confrontation with Sedrick Altheimer, a Black newspaper carrier, nearly two years ago.
Annie Jones-Barnes is pastor of Rock City Church in Tacoma. She said it seems like Troyer is avoiding any penalties for the trauma he caused Altheimer.
“What does that do for this young Black man — and there are a lot of other people that look just like him and feel like the system is rigged against them,” Jones-Barnes said. “As a person who really holds hope high, when you consistently get things that are more of the same, it really depletes the hope for change.”
She said Troyer’s trial was top of mind among her acquaintances, and she saw the signs in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood calling on him to resign.
Jones-Barnes says she would feel more hopeful if the case could spur people to seek more common ground and understanding. And if there were some next steps by the people and agencies involved.
“I feel like the Sheriff’s office and many offices around here need to be in trainings around anti-racist behaviors," Jones-Barnes said. "How do we set up policies to ensure that everybody thrives?”
But instead Troyer “just gets to walk away,” she said.
“I have grandchildren that I don’t want to have to deal with these issues,” she said.
Troyer said he was unfairly accused of lying and racism for following Altheimer on his paper route and calling in a police response. Troyer said he couldn’t see Altheimer’s race until Altheimer confronted him, and that Altheimer threatened to “take him out,” which Troyer took as a threat on his life.
Altheimer has filed a federal lawsuit seeking $5 million in damages against Troyer and Pierce County.
Update 12/16/2021 :
Dr. Gregory Christopher of Shiloh Baptist Church is the president of the Tacoma Ministerial Alliance. He called the jury verdict perplexing, and a setback for building community trust. "Sedrick Altheimer could have been killed," he said. "Naturally we're frustrated. We're trying to build better relationships with law enforcement, but this makes it difficult."
Christopher said he appreciated the courage of Tacoma police officers who testified, including Detective Chad Lawless who said Troyer told him that night that he was not threatened by Altheimer.
Christopher said Troyer's defense attorneys "demonized Sedrick Altheimer, and tried to make Troyer look like an angel." Christopher said that clashed with his memory of Troyer's misstatements about the facts of Manuel Ellis' death at the hands of law enforcement in 2020.
Christopher said "we've got great Tacoma police officers and great sheriff's officers," but added, "in every group there are some people that don't have the temperament for the job, and should be held accountable."
The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, which is led by family members of people who died in police encounters, also issued a statement on the verdict in Troyer's case:
"Just because a person has a badge doesn't give them the right based on a person's color to deem them a threat to the community, resulting in harassment and lasting trauma. Mr. Altheimer was simply doing his job. WCPA will continue to push legislation for transparency and accountability, and challenge the narrative so that this type of conduct doesn't happen to another community member in any jurisdiction across Washington state."