Three Tacoma police officers have been charged in the death of Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man who died in police custody in March 2020, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday.
Two of the officers, Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins, were charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, and one officer, Timothy Rankine, was charged with first-degree manslaughter, Q13 FOX of Seattle reported.
All three officers were booked into jail Thursday evening.
No charges were announced for two other officers who were under investigation, the report said.
If convicted, Burbank and Collins could face 10-18 years in prison, while Rankine could face 6.5-8.5 years in prison, Ferguson said, according to Q13 FOX.
The police union has blasted the action as a “politically motivated witch hunt.”
Ellis died March 3, 2020, after he was restrained by officers on a Tacoma street. Ellis was returning home from a late-night snack run when police stopped him for allegedly trying to get in a car someone else was driving.
The officers claimed Ellis had been aggressive, punching the window of their cruiser and attacking them as they got out of the car, forcing them to put him in a chokehold and place a spit hood over his head.
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But video taken by two witnesses seemed to contradict the officers’ narrative, showing the officers to be the aggressors.
“I can’t breathe, sir,” Ellis can be heard on a security camera saying to an officer after he was placed in the chokehold. Those words would later become a refrain for police reform advocates after they were uttered by George Floyd in May 2020 before Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer later convicted of his murder.
“Shut the (expletive) up, man,” one of the officers can be heard replying to Ellis’ pleas.
A protester holds a sign that reads “Justice for Manny” in this June 5, 2020 file photo in Tacoma, Wash., during a protest against police brutality. (Associated Press)
The Tacoma Police Union was highly critical of the charges in a statement.
“We are disappointed the facts were ignored in favor of what appears to be a politically motivated witch hunt,” it said. “An unbiase
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