Trial starts Monday for Tacoma officers charged in the killing of Manny Ellis
A trial begins Monday for three Tacoma police officers who were charged in the killing of Manny Ellis more than three years ago.
Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, was walking home from a convenience store on March 3, 2020 when he came across officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank. A struggle ensued, and Ellis died at the scene after he was tasered, hogtied, and his head was covered with a spit hood. A medical examiner ruled that Ellis died of hypoxia due to restraint.
The defense representing Collins and Burbank as well as officer Timothy Rankine, who responded to the scene and helped restrain Ellis, will argue that the officers were just doing their jobs.
“The officers say that Ellis was in the intersection, grabbing a door handle of a car passing through — potentially trying to carjack them. And they say during a conversation with the officers that Ellis became combative and eventually attacked them,” explained KNKX reporter Jared Brown, who has been following the case for the podcast "The Walk Home," which is produced in collaboration with The Seattle Times.
But the state says the officers started the altercation with Ellis and lied about the circumstances that led to his death.
“Eyewitnesses describe a more casual encounter where Ellis is walking away and is door-checked by one of the officers,” Brown said.
A video taken by an eyewitness has further cast doubt over the officers’ narrative.
“The witness video really doesn't show Ellis throwing any punches or fighting back,” Brown added. “More so struggling against the officers who are restraining him and tasering him.”
All three officers face manslaughter charges. Collins and Burbank are also charged with second-degree murder.
Brown said the trial is expected to be a lengthy one, with estimates putting court proceedings at roughly three months.
Update notice, 8:56 a.m. on 9/18/23: This story has been updated to include more from KUOW's interview with Jared Brown.