LOCAL NEWS

Gov. Inslee announces independent investigation into death of Manuel Ellis

Jun 10, 2020, 12:45 PM | Updated: 12:52 pm
Manuel Ellis, independent investigations...
People hold signs during a vigil for Manuel Ellis, a black man whose March death while in Tacoma Police custody was recently found to be a homicide, near the site of his death on June 3, 2020 in Tacoma, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Gov. Inslee announced Wednesday that he will soon look to open an independent investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis.

Tacoma mayor vows answers after police custody death ruled a homicide

Ellis died on March 3, 2020, from a lack of oxygen, after being restrained by Tacoma police. A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, but found drugs and a heart condition also contributed to Ellis’ death.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department had been tasked to investigate the death, despite repeated calls from Ellis’ family for an investigation independent of local law enforcement.

Inslee said in a written statement Wednesday that the fact the Sheriff’s Department had officers at the scene when Ellis died constituted “an irreconcilable conflict” for the county prosecutor set to review the case, and that an entity “independent of Pierce County law enforcement” should take over instead.

“The state will ensure an independent investigation and independent prosecutorial review into the death of Manuel Ellis,” Inslee promised. “We will ensure that the work is done free of conflicts of interest.”

Photos: Vigil in Tacoma for Manuel Ellis

Inslee’s announcement came shortly before Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Robnett revealed that she would no longer be reviewing the Sheriff’s investigation. According to Robnett, she and Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor issued a statement supporting a new investigation, and that they “agree that this is the right thing to do.”

“That is what the Ellis family wants, what the Mayor of Tacoma wants, and what much of our community wants,” she said.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards has been outspoken in her support for the Ellis family, calling for the firing, prosecution, and arrests of the officers involved in the incident. One of Tacoma’s police unions responded to Woodards last Friday, claiming that the mayor was speaking “without an ounce of evidence to support her words beyond misplaced rage.”

It’s unclear at this time which agency Inslee will tag to take over the investigation from here, with more details expected in the days ahead.

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Gov. Inslee announces independent investigation into death of Manuel Ellis