MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Ex-Tacoma cop Timothy Rankine plans to file lawsuit against city, attorney general

May 23, 2024, 4:28 AM

Image: On Sept. 18, 2023, Timothy Rankine talks to codefendant Matthew Collins and an attorney duri...

On Sept. 18, 2023, Timothy Rankine talks to codefendant Matthew Collins and an attorney during the pretrial motion at Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma in the trial of now former Tacoma police officers Christopher Burbank, Collins and Rankine in the killing of Manny Ellis. (Pool file photo by Brian Hayes via AP)

(Pool file photo by Brian Hayes via AP)

Former Tacoma Police Department officer Timothy Rankine and his wife filed a tort claim against the city of Tacoma and the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.

The couple’s claim the charge Rankine faced was “politically motivated false accusations of racial and bias policing and criminal misconduct creating a hostile work environment, inciting hatred, threats, and violence against me and my family.

The tort claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, seeks $35 million for Rankine and $12 million for his wife.

According to the claim, Rankine’s wife suffered damage to her marriage, personal safety and severe emotional distress.

“Mr. Rankine is stepping forward together with his wife to seek redress for vilifying him and falsely accusing him of misconduct and basically murder,” Rankine’s attorney Joan Mell said.

A spokesperson for the city of Tacoma said in an email to The Associated Press Tuesday that the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Rankine, 2 others went on trial for the 2020 death of Manny Ellis

Rankine, along with fellow former officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank stood trial in 2023 and were acquitted for the death of Manny Ellis, 33, in March of 2020. Rankine testified during the that he pressed down on Ellis’ back despite Ellis saying he couldn’t breathe. Rankine was acquitted of manslaughter but said in the claims filed that his reputation has been destroyed.

2023 verdict: 3 police officers found not guilty in the death of Manny Ellis

Rankine and the other officers each received $500,000 from the City of Tacoma after they agreed to leave their positions with the city.

Attorneys for the three had argued that Ellis died from a lethal amount of methamphetamine as well as a heart condition, not from the officers’ actions. The Pierce County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide and said it was caused by a lack of oxygen during the physical restraint.

Rankine’s attorney says that’s not near enough to compensate for what the couple has lost.

“They became national public figures for a race discussion for which they had no control. They became the poster family for divisiveness,” Mell said.

More on this case: US Attorney’s Office to launch its own probe in the death of Manny Ellis

Former Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist provided legal analysis during the former officers’ trial. He says it’s hard for him to see the merits of the lawsuit.

“When a jury finds a defendant not guilty, the jury is simply saying the prosecutor failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury is not saying the defendant is innocent. The jury is not saying we approve of the defendant’s conduct. The jury is just saying the prosecutor did not prove the case,” Lindquist said to KIRO Newsradio.

Lindquist went on to say that the jury finding Rankine not guilty of the charges doesn’t mean that there was no merit to file the charges to begin with.

“Prosecutors have broad discretion to bring criminal charges. Here, the prosecutor was the attorney general. A judge reviewed the criminal complaint and found probable cause for the charges. There’s no legal basis to pursue the AG for filing these charges,” Lindquist continued.

Christopher Burbank departs: Officer acquitted in Manny Ellis’ death, hired in Thurston County resigns

Now that the tort claim has been filed, there is a 60-day wait before the actual lawsuit can be filed.

“It’s not a race issue but it’s been exploited and made into a race issue by politicians and officials who have no business arguing the race claim at all. I think that’s exploitation,” Mell said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

You can read more of James Lynch’s stories here. Follow James on X, or email him here.

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