Tacoma officers accused of Manuel Ellis’ death have been released on bail
The three officers from the Tacoma Police Department charged with the death of Manuel Ellis got out of jail after posting bail on Friday.
Officers Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins and Timothy Rankine all face a charge of first degree manslaughter, while Burbank and Collins are also charged with second degree murder following Ellis’ death when they attempted to stop it over a year ago.
Ellis, a black man, died when Tacoma police tried to stop him on March 3, 2020, for allegedly “attempting to open the doors of occupied vehicles”. Ellis had to be immobilized after a physical altercation with police officers, police said.
Part of the arrest was filmed by a driver. And Ellis could be heard shouting, “I can’t breathe,” over the audio of the police dispatch.
The three officers pleaded not guilty in a remote appearance Friday, and the bond was set at $ 100,000. Prosecutors had asked the judge for a million dollar bond.
Pierce County Jail records show all three were released at the same time on Friday afternoon.
It’s the first time The Washington Attorney General has charged police officers with unlawful use of lethal force, according to a statement by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The Tacoma Police Union, in a statement, called the charge a “politically motivated witch hunt” and the officers “good public servants … sacrificed on the altar of public sentiment.”
“An impartial jury will find that the officers did not break any law and, in fact, acted in accordance with the law, their training and the policies of the Tacoma Police Department,” the union said.
Court documents released Thursday indicate that Ellis died in the “criminal assault and / or unlawful imprisonment of Ellis” from Burbank and Collins.
Burbank and Collins “repeatedly attacked and punched Ellis, applied Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint (LVNR) to Ellis and tasered him three times, all without justification,” according to the documents.
The two officers also “failed to provide or call for urgent medical assistance,” put Ellis in “hogtie ties,” failed to alert the other officers of the medical distress, and “failed to ‘Intervene when the officer hooded Ellis and then failed to remove the back cover,’ the documents said.
Hoods are items that some correctional officers, police and paramedics may place on an inmate’s head in certain circumstances to make it more difficult for that person to spit or bite on them or others.
Rankine “Recklessly caused Ellis’ death when, after hearing Ellis say he couldn’t breathe,” the officer continued to hold Ellis in a prone position and put pressure on his back, according to court documents.