In the trial of three #Washington state #police officers charged in the 2020 death of #ManuelEllis, a Black man, defense attorneys argued that his demise was a result of drug use, specifically methamphetamine addiction, and not excessive force by the officers. Representing Tacoma police Officer Christopher Burbank, attorney Wayne Fricke claimed Ellis's violent and unpredictable behavior forced the officers to use force, absolving them of culpability. The trial is significant as it marks the first case of officers charged in a suspect's death since a 2018 measure removed the requirement for prosecutors to prove police malice.
Special prosecutor Patty Eakes, presenting the case on behalf of the Washington Attorney General's Office, urged the jury to assess officers' credibility by comparing their statements with videos and witness testimony.
Eakes highlighted contradictions, playing audio clips of officers' statements alongside evidence that contradicted their claims. The officers—Burbank, Matthew Collins, and Timothy Rankine—face charges ranging from second-degree murder to manslaughter.
Eakes emphasized that Ellis repeatedly stated, "Can't breathe, sir," during the incident, similar to #GeorgeFloyd's tragic death three months later. Witnesses contradicted officers' claims of Ellis's violence, and Eakes questioned the credibility of their statements. Defense attorneys argued the officers acted appropriately, pointing to flaws in the videos and witnesses' accounts.
Collins's lawyer, Jared Ausserer, questioned the timing and motivations of witness Sara McDowell, who recorded part of the incident and challenged the legality of Ellis's arrest. The trial's outcome will have implications for the ongoing national conversation on police use of force.
The trial of the three Washington state police officers charged in the tragic death of Manuel Ellis is a critical moment in the ongoing struggle for justice and accountability in cases of police violence. We'll continue to follow this story for updates.