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‘This hit me different’: Gee and Draze react to charges against officers in Manuel Ellis death

A person holds a sign during a vigil for Manuel Ellis, a black man whose March death while in Tacoma Police custody. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday that three Tacoma police officers will be charged for their role in the death of Manuel Ellis. For many, the news marked an emotional moment.

State Attorney General charges three officers for death of Manuel Ellis
Tacoma Police Department releases statement

“I don’t know why this hit me different, just sitting here my eyes are tearing up,” said Draze, Seattle hip-hop artist and Gee & Ursula Show guest host. “As a human, this stuff is a lot.”

Ellis died in Tacoma while in police custody on March 3, 2020, telling officers who were restraining him that he could not breathe. Parallels have since been drawn in the Puget Sound region between Ellis and George Floyd, with members of the community — as well as Ellis’ family — pushing to see justice served.

Two officers — Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins — have now been charged with second-degree murder, while a third, Timothy Rankine, will face first-degree manslaughter charges. In total, six officers were involved.

As Draze described, there’s a wide range of emotions to be felt right in the wake of that announcement.

“I’m tired, I’m frustrated, I’m happy,” he said. “We’re taking steps in the right direction. Is it enough? I don’t know, I don’t even want to do that right now. I’m tired of fighting for something that’s simple and easy.”

Photos: Vigil in Tacoma for Manuel Ellis

And while Thursday’s charging decision has been praised by local leaders from the Pierce County Council to Gov. Jay Inslee, Gee points out that this goes far beyond politics, cutting right to the heart of where he believes the movement for police reform should be focused.

“It’s not a celebration — this isn’t against cops,” he noted. “This is about human decency. This is about right and wrong, not left and right.”

“When I think about police officers out there, it breaks my heart, and I have to educate some people on the low when people say things like ‘all cops are bad,'” Gee continued. “As policing gets ready to rid themselves of these bad police officers, it makes it better for those who continue to protect and serve today, and I’m glad for them.”

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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