Jury selection recently began in the trial of three Tacoma officers who were charged with the death of Manuel “Manny” Ellis in March 2020.
Key details: Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins and Asian American police officer Timothy Rankine were charged with the death of Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man who died of a lack of oxygen “due to physical restraint” two months before the widely reported murder of George Floyd.
Burbank and Collins were charged with second-degree murder, while Rankine is facing first-degree manslaughter charges. In 2021, all three of them pleaded not guilty.
The officers’ trial is expected to run four days per week until December. Jury selection, which began on Monday, is expected to take two weeks before the opening statements at Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Washington, begin on Oct. 2.
What happened: The incident occurred in Pierce County, Washington, on March 3, 2020, when Ellis exited a convenience store and encountered Burbank and Collins sitting in a patrol car.
According to the probable cause statement filed by the Washington Attorney General’s Office, the officers tackled and punched Ellis. They also used a stun gun on him, held him face down on the sidewalk and put a spit-hood over his head.
Several officers reportedly responded to the scene, including Rankine and his partner, Masiyh Ford.Rankine and other officers were accused of sitting on Ellis, but Rankine was reportedly the only officer who admitted to hearing the man’s last words: “I can’t breathe.”
Rankine also reportedly ignored orders given by responding medics to get off Ellis, charging documents revealed.
How he died: Experts initially hired by the officers claimed methamphetamine and heart problems were the cause of Ellis’ death, but the Pierce County Medical Examiner noted that the man’s death was a homicide and was caused by “hypoxia,” or a lack of oxygen, “due to physical restraint.”
Other officers: In addition to Ford, Armando Farinas and Gary Sanders, a detective sergeant with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, were not dismissed from their jobs and have not been charged with the man’s death. The three of them were all involved in restraining Ellis.
Other details:Burbank, Collins and Rankine are reportedly free on bail and still employed by the Tacoma Police Department on paid leave. They have reportedly collected over $1 million in salary since Ellis’ death.
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