Family files police complaint over Manuel Ellis’ death in Tacoma
The family of Manuel Ellis, a black man who died while restrained by Tacoma police officers who have since been charged with criminal charges, have filed a federal complaint for his death.
Lawyers for Ellis’ sister, Monet Carter-Mixon, and her mother, Marcia Carter, filed a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit in Tacoma U.S. District Court on Friday night against the city of Tacoma, the Pierce County and several individual agents.
Neither the city nor the county immediately responded to emails seeking comment.
Ellis, a 33-year-old black man, died on March 3, 2020, just weeks before George Floyd’s death triggered a nationwide reckoning on race and police. Police arrested him on his way home from a convenience store with a box of donuts and a bottle of water, according to the complaint.
“He was deemed suspicious by the officers and they beat, tased, strangled and tied him up because of their false perceptions of Manuel Ellis which are irremediably linked to his race,” the lawsuit said.
Ellis repeatedly told officers he couldn’t breathe because he was immobilized. Three police officers who were charged in May have pleaded not guilty to second degree murder or manslaughter.
“We won’t let Manny be forgotten,” attorney Matthew A. Ericksen Sr. said in an email announcing the lawsuit. “We are 100% committed to holding people accountable for his murder and doing our best to make change in Tacoma and the country.” “
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has charged Tacoma cops Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins, who are white, with second degree murder after witnesses reported they attacked Ellis without provocation.
Constable Timothy Rankine, who is Asian, faces a charge of first degree manslaughter. He is accused of kneeling on Ellis’ back and shoulder as Ellis repeatedly told them he couldn’t breathe, according to a probable cause statement filed in County Superior Court in Pierce.
The Pierce County medical examiner called Ellis’ death a homicide due to lack of oxygen caused by the restraint, with an enlarged heart and methamphetamine poisoning as contributing factors.
Death made Ellis’ name synonymous with demands for justice during protests in the Pacific Northwest. His last words – “I can’t breathe, sir!” – were captured by a home security camera, as was one of the officers’ line: “Shut up (expletive) man.”
Ellis, who enjoyed playing the drums in his church band and would have been doing well in the months leading up to his death, had a history of mental illness and addiction. In September 2019, he was found naked after trying to rob a fast food restaurant. A sheriff’s deputy overpowered him with a Taser after refusing to stay on the ground and instructing law enforcement.
His family’s lawsuit said he was asking for “immense” damages, but it did not include a specific amount. The family had previously suggested they were looking for $ 30 million.
Officers charged with his death could face life in prison if found guilty. But the standard sentence range is 10 to 18 years for second degree murder without a criminal record and 6.5 to 8.5 years for manslaughter.
The police were released on bail pending trial.