Rolling Out

3 Washington officers cleared in killing of Black man in 2020

Protestors speak up
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Gorodenkoff

There will be no justice for Manuel “Manny” Ellis, the 33-year-old Black man who police officers killed during an arrest in 2020 in Tacoma, Washington. On Mar. 3, 2020, Ellis was walking home with donuts from a 7-Eleven before officers tased, beat, and restrained Ellis face down on the sidewalk to his death. Ellis’ legal team argued that the 33-year-old’s last words were, “I can’t breathe, sir.” The plaintiff’s team also argued that four witnesses saw Ellis not fighting back once restrained by three officers.


The three officers involved, and all cleared of criminal charges on Dec. 21, were Matthew Collins, 40, Christopher Burbank, 30, and Timothy Rankine, 34. Collins and Burbank are White, while Rankine is Asian American.


A lawyer representing Ellis said the officers were found not guilty because Ellis’ past arrests from 2015 and 2019 were brought up in the trial. The defense argued that the officers approached Ellis about appearing to get into a stranger’s car. The defense then claimed Ellis told Burbank he was going to punch him in the face and began banging on the window. Once an officer got out of the car to arrest him, the defense claimed Ellis threw him to the ground, and the taser didn’t work on him. They claimed Ellis was high on meth.

Witnesses, however, said they didn’t see Ellis try to open a stranger’s car door, bang on the police vehicle, or swing his fists at officers.


The AP reported approximately 30 people gathered near Ellis’ mural and chanted, “No justice, no peace.”

“The not guilty verdict is further proof the system is broken,” the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability wrote in a statement. “Failing the very people it should be serving.”

The Pierce County medical examiner ruled Ellis’ death a homicide caused by oxygen deprivation. Still, lawyers for the officers said a high level of methamphetamine in his system and a heart irregularity were to blame.

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