3 Tacoma Officers Found Not Guilty In Police Custody Death Of Manuel Ellis

Photo: Stanford University

Three Washington police officers have been found not guilty in the 2020 killing of Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man whose death drew parallels to the murder of George Floyd.

According to the Atlanta Black Star, Christopher Burbank, 38, and Matthew Collins, 40, were found not guilty of murder and manslaughter. Timothy Rankine, 34, was acquitted of manslaughter following a trial in connection to Ellis' death in police custody in Tacoma, Washington on March 3, 2020.

Video shown during the trial shows officers putting an unarmed Ellis in a chokehold, tasing him, and pinning him to the ground. Ellis can be heard in the footage saying to officers "Can't breathe, sir, can't breathe."

Lawyers for the officers argued that Ellis died from a lethal dose of methamphetamine and an existing heart condition. They also claimed that Ellis kicked the door of a police car during the incident.

Witnesses told the jury that the officers were the aggressors and made an unprovoked effort to subdue Ellis.

Matthew Ericksen, a lawyer for the Ellis family, was critical of the defense's argument during the trial.

“The defense attorneys were allowed to dredge up Manny’s past and repeat to the jury again and again Manny’s prior arrests in 2015 and 2019. That unfairly prejudiced jurors against Manny,” Ericksen said.

Collins’ lawyer, Casey Arbenz, said the verdict was “a huge sigh of relief” and the officers “should never have been charged.”

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