Judge sets bail at $100,000 for three officers charged in death of Manuel Ellis
Bail has been set for the three officers charged in the death of Manuel Ellis, after their arraignment in Pierce County Superior Court on Friday.
Two officers — Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins — are charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, while a third, Timothy Rankine, was charged with first-degree manslaughter charges.
All three were arrested and booked into jail in Pierce County on Thursday night, and have pleaded not guilty.
The state had asked the judge overseeing the officers’ arraignment to set bail at $1 million for each defendant, claiming that amount is standard for cases involving murder and manslaughter charges. Ultimately, the judge set bail at $100,000 each. For Burbank, the judge cited the fact that he had turned himself in, has no prior criminal history, has “significant ties to the community,” and presents no evidence that he would be a flight risk.
Because Collins is currently residing in Oregon, his travel is restricted to the county he’s currently living in and any contiguous counties. Any travel to Washington is limited to court dates or meetings with his attorney.
The officers will be required to surrender their passports, have no contact with witnesses or Manuel Ellis’ family, not be in possession of any firearms, and only have contact among themselves with attorneys present.
Ellis died in Tacoma while in police custody on March 3, 2020. An autopsy by the Pierce County Medical Examiner concluded the death was a homicide, but found drugs and a heart condition also contributed to Ellis’ death.
Ellis had complained to officers while being restrained that he could not breathe, echoing a similar scenario that played out for George Floyd in Minnesota just two months later.
With no prior criminal history, a conviction for second-degree murder ranges between 10 and 18 years in prison on average, while a first-degree manslaughter conviction typically comes with a sentence of 6.5 to 8.5 years. That said, the maximum sentence for both is life in prison.
Ellis’ family attorney James Bible spoke outside the courthouse after the officers’ arraignment.
“We heard a great deal about all the things that these officers have allegedly done that was nice and kind and all of that,” Bible said. “But none of that takes away the reality that for the next 30-40 years or more, Manuel Ellis’ children will not have him at their birthday parties. That his mom, in her final years of life, will not have her son by her side.”
The Tacoma Police Union and the Tacoma Police Department both issued statements on Thursday’s charges, with the union saying, “we look forward to trial.” The TPD plans to “start its own internal review of the actions of the officers involved in this incident,” and will make disciplinary and training decisions based on what it concludes.