The three officers who were charged in the 2020 death of Manny Ellis were found not guilty of all criminal charges on Thursday, leaving Ellis’ family heartbroken.
“The biggest reason why I personally think this jury found reasonable doubt is because the defense was essentially allowed to put Manny Ellis on trial, said Matthew Ericksen, an attorney representing the Ellis family. “The defense attorneys were allowed to dredge up Manny’s past and repeat to the jury again and again Manny’s prior arrests in 2015 and 2019. That unfairly prejudiced jurors against Manny.”
Tacoma Officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank were both charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the March 3, 2020 death of Manny Ellis. A third officer, Timothy Rankine was also charged with manslaughter.
Video evidence was presented in the trial of three police officers charged in the death of Manny Ellis that contradicts the story police told about the incident that took Ellis’ life.
According to AP, during the trial, the prosecution called forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks to testify about a video that was captured by one of the witnesses on the scene.
Officers claimed that Ellis was acting violently during his encounter with police, but video evidence from Fredericks’ testimony as well as witness statements showed Ellis never fought back.
During Fredericks’ testimony, he walked the jury through each frame of the video one by one. In the video, Officer Collins can be seen on the ground behind Ellis with his hands near his neck while Officer Burbank aims his Taser at Ellis’ chest.
As Ellis puts his hands in the air to surrender, Burbank shoots Ellis with his taser as Collins puts Ellis in a chokehold. Ellis’ head falls to the ground, and he stops moving.
“Collins could be heard saying put your hands behind your back,” said attorney Jared Ausserer, who is representing Matthew Collins. “At no point does he put his hands behind his back.”
But Fredericks completely disagreed saying, “He put his hand behind his back. The video shows it.”
Officers’ lawyers challenge analysis of video that shows Manny Ellis death https://t.co/s06bPj6lg5
— FOX 13 Seattle (@fox13seattle) October 6, 2023
Ausserer also made the claims that Ellis “dragged” Burbank to the ground during the incident, but again, Fredericks contradicted that claim by suggesting that Burbank just lost his balance.
Prosecutors also played video from a neighbor’s doorbell security camera that captured Ellis pleading with officers saying, “Can’t breathe, sir, can’t breathe.”
Ellis’ sister, Monét Carter-Mixon, also testified saying that weeks after Ellis’ death police still weren’t transparent with her about the death of her brother. Carter-Mixon said she had to go to social media to try to learn the truth.
“I started looking up anything I could find about a Black man being killed in Tacoma, Washington, on March 3,” she said.
She said she combed Google and Facebook Tacompton Files for any type of news until she was contacted by a woman who said she had information on the incident.
“You’re really going to want to see the video,” Sara McDowell allegedly told Carter-Mixon. “The information the cops gave and everywhere is a lie.”
All three officers have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Thursday night, a small crowd gathered near a mural of the slain Black man, demanding justice for Ellis. “No justice, no peace,” they chanted, temporarily blocking an intersection.
Local officials were relieved by the jury’s not-guilty decision.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he was grateful for the jury and the court. He also thanked his legal team “for their extraordinary hard work and dedication.”
“I know the Ellis family is hurting, and my heart goes out to them,” he added.
The City of Tacoma said in a statement that their internal police department investigation is still ongoing and that the not-guilty verdict would not affect the investigation and any discipline decisions are expected to happen in the next couple of weeks.
Fortunately, the Ellis family did settle a federal wrongful death lawsuit for $4 million last year, but they will never be able to hold and hug their son again.
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