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Former King County Sheriff trusts AG team’s investigation in Ellis case

The headquarters for the Tacoma Police Department. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Bail was set on Friday for three Tacoma police officers charged in the death of Manuel Ellis.

Former King County Sheriff John Urquhart told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson afterward that what jumped out to him, in the 21-page charging documents, were that there are two very different stories from the officers and the witnesses.

“Both could be true, but apparently it’s going to take a jury to decide which story is true and how much of it is true,” Urquhart said.

He said he has a tremendous amount of respect for the people who were involved in the latest investigation from the state Attorney General’s office. In fact, the person who signed the probable cause document is a former King County prosecutor, and one of the investigators was a major crimes detective for many years.

“These people know what they’re doing. There’s no way they would have sworn to this probable cause determination for political reasons,” Urquhart said. “From that standpoint, I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt.”

While Urquhart said Ellis’ past is important only for corroboration of the officers’ stories, he said the mistake of police departments is they bring up the criminal history of the suspect and it makes no difference at the moment a police officer pulls the trigger. Just like it makes no difference what the officer’s history was.

“You have to look at it in a vacuum. You have to look at the reasons that officer used deadly force at that precise moment in time,” Urquhart said. “I don’t care what the history of the defendant was, I don’t care about the history of the officers. When I was sheriff, I only wanted to look at that instance in time when deadly force was used.”

Family, attorney react to charging decision in Manuel Ellis case

Based on their past performance as police officers and in the military, Dori says it’s hard for him to believe the three officers went out to hunt down a man that night.

“All that should come out at trial,” Urquhart said, again saying the past corroborates their story.

The former sheriff says it’s a tragedy all around and that sympathy for the three officers and for Ellis’ family are not mutually exclusive.

“I’m just sick about the whole thing,” Urquhart said.

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.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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