Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has ordered the state patrol to take over the investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis, a black man, who died in the custody of the Tacoma, Washington, police.
Governor Inslee ordered Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste to begin collecting records from the Pierce County Sheriff and forming an investigative team. After the investigation is complete, the case will be referred to Washington’s attorney general.
Ellis died March 3 in handcuffs while being restrained on the ground while in the custody of four officers: Christopher Burbank, 34; Matthew Collins, 37; Masyih Ford, 28; and Timothy Rankine, 31. Ellis, 33, was heard to say, “I can’t breathe.”
The Pierce County Medical Examiner reported Ellis died of respiratory arrest due to hypoxia due physical restraint. Contributing factors included methamphetamine intoxication and an enlarged heart. The medical examiner ruled Ellis’ death was a homicide.
His death followed the police murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd, whose murder . sparked protests worldwide.
Tacoma mayor Victoria Woodards has called for the officers to be fired. Don Ramsdell, Tacoma’s police chief, said he plans to ban chokeholds and require officers to intervene if a colleague uses excessive force.
New video released on Monday shows a police officer using a neck restraint on Manuel Ellis, in the crucial moments leading up to his death.
The silent video, taken by a man in a car directly across the street from the arrest scene, shows Ellis in a chokehold, struggling on the ground. A second officer tases him. Ellis is then turned on his stomach, and at least one officer’s knee is put on his neck or back.