LOCAL NEWS

WSP report raises questions over officers’ accounts of Manuel Ellis death

Feb 3, 2021, 11:35 AM | Updated: Feb 4, 2021, 7:30 am
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)

Manuel Ellis died at the hands of Tacoma police in March 2020. Now, a report compiled by Washington State Patrol casts doubt on conflicting testimony delivered by officers involved in Ellis’ death.

Manuel Ellis family attorney frustrated by ‘mockery of justice’

Ellis — who had initially been stopped for allegedly attempting to break into a car — 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.

Video recordings — including one from a nearby Amazon Ring camera — and witness statements confirm that Ellis told officers he was unable to breathe numerous times. Testimony from the officers themselves, though, conflicts with that evidence, according to a report on WSP’s investigation from the Seattle Times.

That includes a statement from TPD Officer Christopher Burbank, when asked by investigators whether it was clear Ellis was struggling to breathe prior to his death.

“Not that I recall, no,” he answered, contrary to video evidence showing Ellis stating, “I can’t breathe, sir.”

Testimony from Burbank and fellow officer Matthew Collins — who first engaged Ellis together — differs in several key ways, casting doubt on their account of the night’s events.

According to Collins, Ellis lifted him off the ground “like a child” and threw him into the street. Burbank’s account leaves that detail out, describing a scuffle between Collins and Ellis in simpler terms as “a melee.”

As the conflict escalated, Collins said he attempted to employ a chokehold on Ellis, while Burbank reported discharging his Taser on him four times.

“It appeared (Ellis) wasn’t affected by anything,” Burbank claimed.

Video and accounts from eyewitnesses tell a different story. While video does show Collins holding Ellis in a chokehold from behind while Burbank discharged his Taser, Ellis appeared not to be resisting, instead holding his hands up and attempting to capitulate to the officers.

Photos: Vigil in Tacoma for Manuel Ellis

After the Taser brought Ellis to the ground, Collins can be seen pressing Ellis’ head down with his knees, all while officers can be seen hitting him repeatedly.

“None of the footage, or the people who recorded it, show Ellis acting violently toward officers, although he is squirming as the officers described,” the Seattle Times’ recounting of the video evidence details.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson received WSP’s investigation in early November, labeling it the “top priority” for his office’s Criminal Justice Division. Ellis’ death was ruled a homicide by the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Officer early last summer.

Four TPD officers — including Collins and Burbank — were placed on paid leave shortly after the medical examiner’s declaration. The WSP’s report does not contain recommendations concerning whether the involved officers should or shouldn’t be punished.

Local News

bellevue...
MyNorthwest Staff

Explosions heard during fire in Bellevue

Several people in Bellevue reported hearing explosions in the area of a large fire Thursday night.
1 day ago
crime, domestic violence...
MyNorthwest Staff

Four people killed in Tacoma shooting

Tacoma police say two women and two men were killed in a shooting Thursday.
1 day ago
bike...
Kathryn Altena

King County Board of Health delays vote to repeal bike helmet law

After a public hearing on a proposed repeal of King County's bike helmet law, the county board of health decided to delay their vote.
1 day ago
jim walsh, washington lawmaker...
Heather Bosch

Washington lawmaker is locked out of capitol over COVID vaccine mandate

A Washington state lawmaker says he's been locked out of the state capitol in Olympia over the COVID vaccine mandate.
1 day ago
Sammamish...
MyNorthwest Staff

Sammamish scores top spot on list of best small US cities to live in

A new list has crowned Sammamish, Washington, the nation's best small city to live in, marking the latest in a string of recent accolades.
1 day ago
world cup...
KIRO Radio Newsdesk

Seattle among cities competing for hosting duties in 2026 World Cup

Starting Thursday, World Cup officials will tour cities across the United States, including Seattle, to determine which venues will host games in 2026.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
WSP report raises questions over officers’ accounts of Manuel Ellis death