Washington State Attorney General (AG) Bob Ferguson filed felony charges Thursday against three Tacoma Police Department officers related to the death of Manuel Ellis.
Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins are charged with second-degree murder, and Timothy Rankine is charged with first-degree manslaughter. Ferguson filed the charges in Pierce County Superior Court and warrants have been issued for the three officers’ arrest.
Manuel Ellis was a musician at his church, and had two children: an 11-year-old son and an 18-month old daughter. Ellis was black. Ellis’s family has said that Ellis struggled with addiction and mental health. According to a lawyer for the family, Ellis was walking home after playing drums that evening at his church.
He reportedly called his mother, brother and sister separately after leaving the Church. Ellis’s mother said that she spoke with him about a half an hour before his arrest and death.
Black News: Manuel Ellis Death, 3 Tacoma police officers charged in killing-video
Manuel Ellis died on March 3, 2020, during an arrest by police officers in Tacoma, Washington. Video of the incident showed Ellis on the ground being struck repeatedly by officers, as a witness shouted “Stop. Oh my God, stop hitting him. Just arrest him,” and Ellis pleading with them, saying “I can’t breathe“. Paramedics attended to him for more than 30 minutes before giving up on trying to resuscitate him.
Police have stated that Ellis started the confrontation when he picked up an officer and threw him to the ground, while a witness stated police initiated the confrontation. The officers involved were initially placed on administrative leave, but then were returned to work after the police department ruled there had been no violation of policy.
Police initially said that Ellis had begun a confrontation by striking a police car, attacking four officers and throwing one officer to the ground. According to police, they had seen Ellis trying to open the doors of cars with people inside them. Two of the officers were white, while one was black and one was Asian, according to the Police Department.”.
A witness, who observed the encounter from a car behind Ellis and the officers, said that Ellis approached their police car and appeared to be engaged in what she thought was a “friendly” conversation with them. Then, the witness said, the officers threw open their door, knocking Ellis to the ground. The witness began taking video footage, which shows officers punching Ellis while he is on the ground. In one video the witness can be heard calling: “Stop. Oh my God, stop hitting him. Just arrest him.”
A lawyer representing the Ellis family claimed that Ellis was also tased, contradicting earlier police statements saying that he was not, and also claimed that police officers had placed themselves on top of Ellis. A detective for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said that Ellis called out “I can’t breathe,” and that officers requested the help of paramedics and placed Ellis on his side. Police dispatch audio records Ellis shouting “I can’t breathe”, and police requesting medical help minutes later.
The Pierce County medical examiner ruled that Ellis’s death was a homicide, resulting from “hypoxia due to physical restraint.” The medical examiner stated it was unlikely he would have died from only the restraint and also noted that “methamphetamine intoxication and heart disease were factors”.
A mask had been placed by officers over Ellis’s mouth to stop him from spitting or biting. The county medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Clark, said Mr. Ellis had enough methamphetamine in his system to be fatal, but he said paramedics initially found him to have a normal heartbeat.” At the same time, he was close to respiratory arrest.”
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