Three police officers were acquitted of all charges in Manuel Ellis’s killing.
Two Tacoma police officers engaged in physical conflict with 33-year-old Black man Manuel Ellis on the evening of March 3, 2020, as Ellis walked home from a convenience shop. Some witnesses claim the police approached Ellis because he was trying to unlock a woman’s car door in an aggressive manner, while others claim Ellis quietly approached the policemen in their vehicle before the situation grew violent. When the police officers got out of their vehicle, they got into a fight with Ellis. After putting a spit mask over Ellis’s face and shocking him with a stun gun, then the officers detained him.
One of the officers involved claimed that Ellis used “superhuman strength” to pick him up and throw him to the ground, but civilian witnesses and the other officer involved did not report seeing anything like that.
According to the medical examiner, Ellis’s death was caused by “hypoxia due to physical restraint.” However, the officers’ defense attorneys assert that Ellis’s combative and erratic behavior was influenced by the methamphetamine discovered in his system, which contributed to his death. According to Ellis, one of the policemen told him that he could breathe if he could only speak, even though Ellis claimed he was having trouble breathing while held.
The charges against the three cops included first-degree manslaughter and two counts of second-degree murder. After a week of deliberations, the jury found none of the cops not guilty on December 21st.
According to Ellis family attorney Matthew Ericksen, the officers’ acquittal was due only to the jury’s allowance of the defense to mention Ellis’s previous arrest, which in turn prejudiced the jury against Ellis.
In a statement issued in defense of the officers, the Tacoma police union characterized the accusations leveled against them as an element of a “politically motivated witch hunt.”