In Tacoma, Washington, a trial is set to begin, shedding light on a case reminiscent of George Floyd's tragic death, but with distinct circumstances. This case revolves around the 2020 death of Manuel Ellis, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody. Ellis, 33, was walking home with doughnuts on the night of March 3, 2020, when he encountered police officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank.
What transpired next, witnessed by several bystanders, led to Ellis being tackled, punched, and eventually handcuffed, hogtied, and subjected to a neck restraint. As Ellis pleaded for breath, officers denied his pleas.
The trial of these officers marks an important moment under a 5-year-old Washington state law aimed at prosecuting police officers who wrongfully use deadly force. Ellis' death has garnered attention from racial justice activists locally but didn't receive the same global outcry as George Floyd's case.
Three civilian witnesses disputed the police account, stating they never saw Ellis attempt to strike the officers. Video evidence, including cell phone footage and doorbell camera recordings, suggests Ellis raised his hands in surrender and repeatedly addressed the officers respectfully, saying he couldn't breathe. These contradictions between police narratives and video evidence have raised questions about the accuracy of official reports.
Collins and Burbank face second-degree murder charges, while Rankine, the third officer involved, faces manslaughter charges. This case underscores the impact of a 2018 Washington state law that removed the requirement to prove malice when charging officers criminally for using deadly force, making it easier to hold law enforcement accountable.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.