Manuel Ellis, a 33-year old black man, died in handcuffs while being restrained on the ground by police on March 3. His death has been ruled a homicide.
What We Know:
- Ellis encountered police at 11:22 pm on March 3rd as he was walking home and was reportedly stopped because officers alleged he was harassing a woman at an intersection. When asked what he was doing, officers report Ellis repeatedly struck the police car which contained two officers, who promptly called for backup before exiting the vehicle.
- According to Ed Troyer, spokesman of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Ellis “picked up the officer by his vest and slam-dunked him on the ground”.
- Upon his death, officials said Ellis appeared to be suffering from excited delirium at the time of the encounter, which can often include attempts at violence. Officials agreed this may explain Ellis’ actions before the arrest.
- There was a struggle between Ellis and officers before he was handcuffed on the ground at 11:25 pm, after which the officers called paramedics. Within a minute of the firefighters’ arrival, Ellis stopped breathing and lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
- CBS affiliate KIRO-TV reports that a 12-minute police radio recording taken the night of Ellis’ death, officers can be heard calling for an ambulance and telling dispatchers that Ellis needed to be strapped down. Ellis, at one point, can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe”.
- Ellis died of respiratory arrest due to hypoxia due to physical restraint according to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s office. Although there were contributing factors of methamphetamine intoxication and dilated cardiomyopathy, the Medical Examiner ruled Ellis’ death as a homicide.
A vigil was held on Wednesday for Ellis near the site of his death in Tacoma, Washington.
- Victoria Woodards, Mayor of Tacoma, has called for the firing of police officers involved in the death of Ellis. At a news conference on Thursday night, Woodards said “I am demanding tonight that the Pierce County Sheriff review and confirm every action taken by each officer”, adding, “the officer who committed this crime should be fired and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.
- The four officers involved in the incident are Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins, Masyih Ford, and Timothy Rankine. All four officers were placed on paid administrative leave after the incident and upon returning to duty, have been placed on a second leave. None of the officers have been charged at this time.
- Troyer told reporters, “We expect to present it to the prosecutor at the end of this week or early next week”.
The News Tribune reports after Thursday’s press conference, the Tacoma City Council announced it will meet Friday to discuss requesting an independent review of Ellis’ death from Governor Jay Inslee. Ellis’ loved ones described him as a jokester, a talented musician, and a loving father to his two children. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Manuel Ellis.