3 Tacoma officers on trial in killing of Manny Ellis, starts Monday
Sep 18, 2023, 7:33 AM | Updated: 9:13 am
(Tony Overman/The News Tribune via AP, Pool, File)
The trial against three Tacoma Police Department (TPD) officers charged with the death of a 33-year-old Black man begins Monday. The officers are accused of killing Manuel “Manny” Ellis in March 2020.
Officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins, who are white, have been charged with second-degree murder, and Timothy Rankine, who is Asian American, faces first-degree manslaughter charges. They pleaded not guilty.
Ellis had made some purchases at a convenience store around 11:21 p.m. that Tuesday night and walked across the street, where he encountered Burbank and Collins sitting in a patrol car, according to a probable cause statement filed by the Washington Attorney General’s Office.
The officers said that Ellis was trying to break into a car before attacking the officers when they tried to stop him. Witness statements say that the officers actually jumped out of their squad car as Ellis was walking by and shoved him to the ground.
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.
Ellis’ final words, “I can’t breathe, sir!,” were captured by a home security camera, as was the retort from one of the officers: “Shut the (expletive) up, man.”
Testimony from both Burbank and Collins to investigators was said to have differed in several key ways, casting doubt on their account of the night’s events.
The Pierce County medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by hypoxia, a lack of oxygen from physical restraint.
However, the Tacoma News Tribune reports the presence of methamphetamine in his system, which the defense is using to argue that the officers are not responsible for Ellis’ death. These issues are likely to be a primary focal point of the trial.
Jury selection for the trial is expected to last a couple of weeks, and opening statements are expected to be given Oct. 2 in Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma.