Pierce County Sheriff responds to claims of ‘cover-up’ in death of Manuel Ellis
On Tuesday, the attorney for the family of Manuel Ellis expressed frustration regarding the recent revelation that a fifth Tacoma police officer was involved in Ellis’ death in March 2020, alleging a “cover up” by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office and Tacoma Police Department. Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer spoke to KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show to address those allegations.
New details regarding Ellis’ death revealed two additional law enforcement officers were involved in restraining him. One — an off-duty sheriff’s department sergeant — assisted in pushing Ellis’ leg in to hogtie him while handcuffed and lying flat on the ground. The other was a Tacoma police officer who placed a spit guard over Ellis’ head. The four officers who had been previously identified have been on leave since early June 2020.
Ellis had complained to officers while being restrained that he couldn’t breathe, echoing a similar scenario that played out for George Floyd months later in Minnesota, which led to a summer of heated protests and calls for police reform across the nation.
As for why the public didn’t know about the other officers, Troyer says that’s largely due to language in I-940, a police accountability initiative approved by Washington voters in 2019.
“It was always in the reports — there was nothing hidden about it,” he claimed. “But unfortunately, it’s hard for us because we’re not able to talk a lot about it, and we’re not able to speak about it because of I-940.”
According to Troyer, initial details concerning Ellis’ death were consistently released to the public early on. After it was ruled a homicide by the coroner’s office, that placed it under the purview of I-940, making it so the department was no longer permitted to provide details concerning the active investigation.
“It was not releasable once it turned into an I-940 case and switched over to the attorney general’s office,” Troyer said.
It remains unclear, though, why the fifth Tacoma police officer — whose involvement the department was aware of in early March 2020 — wasn’t placed on leave like the four officers who were first identified.
“That’s a question for the Tacoma Police Department,” Troyer noted. “They knew about it from day one.”
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