Manuel Ellis: Another black man died in Tacoma screaming 'I can't breathe' while being handcuffed by cops

Ellis' death has been termed a homicide and the case is eerily similar to that of George Floyd


                            Manuel Ellis:  Another black man died in Tacoma screaming 'I can't breathe' while being handcuffed by cops
(Getty Images)

TACOMA, WASHINTON: Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards have vowed to make sure there is a "full and complete investigation into the death" of Manuel Ellis, who reportedly died while being detained by Tacoma police on March 3 in a manner eerily similar to the death of George Floyd.

According to The News Tribune, the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office found that Ellis had died of respiratory arrest due to hypoxia from physical restraint.

While there were contributing factors that included methamphetamine intoxication and dilated cardiomyopathy, the medical examiner also ruled Ellis' death a homicide.

A police radio recording taken on the night of Ellis' death gave a glimpse into his encounter with officers, according to CBS affiliate KIRO-TV. Authorities were heard in the 12-minute tape calling for an ambulance and telling dispatchers that Ellis would need to be strapped down.

Ellis is heard saying at one point, "I can't breathe."

Due to the active investigation, Tacoma police have chosen not to comment on the recording.

James Bible, the attorney representing Ellis' family, told the newspaper that the "harshest of realities of George Floyd is right here in Tacoma, and his name is Manny."

At the time of Ellis' death, officials said he appeared to be suffering from excited delirium, which is characterized by "attempts at violence, unexpected strength, and very high body temperature," according to KIRO-TV. That would explain why Ellis had allegedly banged on a patrol car and attacked two officers who were trying to calm him down, officials added.

Meanwhile, protesters have been marching for several days against racial inequality and police brutality — demanding justice for Floyd, Ellis, and several others who have died at the hands of law enforcement.

The similarities in the deaths of Ellis and Floyd cannot be missed.

On March 3, police encountered Ellis at 11.22 pm as he was walking home and reportedly harassing a woman at an intersection. Two officers in the area asked Ellis what he was doing, when he reportedly responded saying he had warrants and wanted to talk to them. Ellis subsequently began striking their patrol car, before the two officers in the vehicle summoned back up and exited the car.

"He picked up the officer by his vest and slam-dunked him on the ground," said Ed Troyer, spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

After a short struggle, police handcuffed Ellis and pinned him to the ground before calling for paramedics around 11.25 pm. According to police, Ellis stopped breathing and lost consciousness within a minute of firefighters arriving at the scene.

While he was pronounced dead at the scene, his cause of death was listed as pending while medical examiners ran toxicology tests.

Tacoma police identified the four officers involved in restraining Ellis this week, namely Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins, Masyih Ford, and Timothy Rankine, per the outlet. Following the incident, all four officers were placed on paid administrative leave and have since returned to duty. Burbank and Collins are white while Ford is black and Rankine is Asian, per KIRO-TV.

A final report on Ellis' death is still pending, and the case is expected to be forwarded next week to the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office, Police Chief Don Ramsdell said.

Hundreds reportedly gathered at a vigil for Ellis on June 3.

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