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Manuel Ellis, James Bible
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Manuel Ellis family attorney frustrated by ‘level of cover up, mockery of justice’

Attorney James Bible speaks to the media flanked by the family of Manuel Ellis and members of the Tacoma Action Collective, during a press conference at the Emerald Queen Riverboat Casino on June 9, 2020 in Tacoma, Washington. Ellis, a 33 year old black man, died while in the custody of the Tacoma Police department in March. Ellis' mother, Marcia Carter-Patterson, is seated on the right. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

A new report from the independent investigation by the Washington State Patrol revealed that a fifth police officer was directly involved in the police death of Manuel Ellis. That officer has since been placed on leave.

Ellis died at the hands of Tacoma police in March 2020. An autopsy by the Pierce County medical examiner concluded that his death was a homicide. There have been no arrests and no criminal charges yet in this case. James Bible is the Ellis family attorney, and joined the Gee & Ursula Show to share his reaction to the news of another officer’s involvement.

“Last week we learned that not only was there another officer involved, but the sheriff was far more intimately involved in the killing of Manuel Ellis than we had originally known, though we did suspect such a thing,” Bible said. “[It’s] shocking, frankly. The level of cover up, the mockery of justice that we have seen in this particular case at the hands of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office and the Tacoma Police Department has been disheartening, frustrating.”

“It’s hard to believe that there would be an actual fifth officer that so callously did what he did in this particular circumstance that would never be mentioned by Tacoma police or the sheriff’s office as they were trumpeting four officers saying that they were involved,” Bible added.

Bible read an excerpt from a report written by the fifth officer involved that says upon arrival he saw Ellis “lying face down in handcuffs,” and claims that the subject was alert and breathing, and had blood on his face and coming from his mouth.

“Clearly, if you’re laying on your stomach and you have blood coming out of your mouth, you’re having difficulty breathing,” Bible said. “It’s further restricted based on how you are actually cuffed and hogtied, and they call it hog tie for a reason. [The officer] then goes on to say, ‘due to his assaultive behavior, I placed a spit hood over the subject’s head to protect everyone on scene from possible exposure.'”

“Now this is essentially what this person did that was so horrific. A man was on the ground, hogtied on his stomach, barely breathing, saying, ‘I can’t breathe, sir,’ and rather than providing this man with assistance, a spit mask was put over his head, further restricting his ability to breathe,” Bible said.

That’s what happened, Bible clarified, according to the fifth officer himself in his own police report that the Tacoma Police Department had in-hand since March 5.

“This report was entered on March 4th. It was printed on March 5th. So they had this report. They were aware of Armando Farinas. They knew what he had done,” Bible said. “They knew that one of the sheriffs had actually participated in the hobbling, a.k.a. hogtying, of Manuel Ellis at the time that they actually let the Pierce County Sheriff be the quote unquote ‘independent investigation’ before it was taken over by the state.”

“I can concretely say that if there were not an independent investigation by the Washington State Patrol and the Attorney General’s Office, we would not be in a place where we knew the information that we know now about what was done to the body of Manuel Ellis on that horrific day, by the Tacoma Police Department and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office,” Bible added.

The Washington State Patrol says the independent investigation is completed, Bible said.

“What’s happened is that the taxpayers continue to pay for officers that are wayward in the city of Tacoma and in Pierce County,” he said. “The action absolutely needs to occur. There is no excuse for these officers not to be fired by the city manager there. … The city manager is derelict in her duties, the City Council is not holding the city manager responsible.”

“Nothing has happened in this case, except for the people have got more information and got more outraged about what’s actually occurred,” he added. “What we know is that this is a systematic cover-up that needs to be addressed. And I can’t tell you how many times Pierce County and the City of Tacoma has covered up incidents just like this one over the years.”

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The attorneys and social justice organizations are continuing to investigation this case and push for criminal prosecution of the offending officers, Bible said, and the firing of those that covered up the case. He also said they believe that Ed Troyer, now Pierce County Sheriff, should be recalled “because this is such a dereliction of duty that it should impact his current tenure.”

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office told KIRO 7 TV that they have no response at this time as this is an active investigation. The Gee & Ursula Show has reached out to Troyer for comment.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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