Monet Carter-Mixon: Manuel Ellis' sister says charges against cops 'a blessing'

Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins were charged with 2nd-degree murder and 1st-degree manslaughter; Timothy Rankine charged with 1st-degree manslaughter


                            Monet Carter-Mixon: Manuel Ellis' sister says charges against cops 'a blessing'
Manuel Ellis' death while in Tacoma Police custody was recently found to be a homicide (David Ryder/Getty Images)

TACOMA, WASHINGTON: Two police officers were charged with second-degree murder in the death of Manuel "Manny" Ellis, while a third officer was charged with first-degree manslaughter, Attorney General Bob Ferguson revealed on Thursday. Grieving family members of Ellis have now reacted to the latest development in the case.

Officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins have been charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, while Officer Timothy Rankine has been charged with first-degree manslaughter. All three officers were booked into the Pierce County Jail Thursday evening and were expected to make their first court appearance on Friday morning, KCPQ reported.

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33-year-old Manuel Ellis died in the street on March 3, 2020, while being restrained by Tacoma police officers. His death was likened to that of George Floyd, who died at the hands of Minneapolis police custody months later and sparked nationwide protests against police brutality. Like Floyd, Ellis also reportedly cried out, “I can’t breathe,” before he died.

A photo of Manuel Ellis, a black man whose March death while in Tacoma Police custody was recently found to be a homicide, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiners Office, is seen near the site of his death during a vigil for him on June 3, 2020, in Tacoma, Washington. (Getty Images)

Who is Monet Carter-Nixon?

Ellis's sister Monet Carter-Mixon has dedicated her life to bring justice to her slain brother and was credited for getting Gov Jay Inslee's attention and subsequently demanding a state investigation. 

Following the charges against three Tacoma officers on Thursday, Carter-Mixon said it was a "blessing" but noted it was not a victory for her. "It's hard for me to be happy. It's hard for me to want to celebrate because there's so many things that are still currently being overlooked," she said. "There's so much work that needs to be done."

Carter-Mixon worked with a group of attorneys, educators, and social justice advocates to come up with the Manuel Ellis Washington Anti-Discrimination Act, or I-1300, an initiative designed to address many of the "systemic, discriminatory roadblocks" her brother reportedly faced during his life, including banning police chokehold and neck restraints, per the News-Tribune.

Marcia Carter-Patterson speaks during a vigil for her son, Manuel Ellis, a black man whose March death while in Tacoma Police custody was recently found to be a homicide, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiners Office, near the site of his death on June 3, 2020, in Tacoma, Washington. (Getty Images)

Carter-Mixon, a young mother who became the public face of her grieving family, knew that if she wanted to see change, she would have to "roll up her sleeves and learn on the job."

“I tried to figure out how to navigate the public education system with a special needs child, and tried to learn what I could do to better support my child. And I accomplished that,” Carter-Mixon recalled to the News-Tribune in November. “Now I’m starting to see a real issue with police brutality ... so I’m trying to learn how legislation works, how building things works, and how politics work, because it’s important to me.”

Carter-Mixon became involved with the I-1300 after the initiative's drafters reached out to her through their family attorney, according to Jesse Wineberry, a former state legislator who co-authored the act. 

Wineberry noted how Carter-Mixon provided a "dose of youth, energy, and urgency" to the effort, helping to clarify, strengthen, and refine the initiative's language addressing police chokeholds.

“Monet has been a force of nature,” Wineberry told the News-Tribune in November. “She has just been phenomenal.”

A barricade, with a banner referencing the 2020 death of Manuel Ellis in police custody, burns in an intersection in downtown Tacoma during an anti-police protest on January 24, 2021, in Tacoma, Washington. (Getty Images)

In March this year, KNKX reported Kirsten Kendrick asked Carter-Mixon what memories of her brother she held most dear.

"It's hard to have memories right now, to remember things, because of the images and the video," she responded. "That's what is, like, taking over my memories in my head, of my brother being killed. I feel like I'm losing memories because this tragedy has taken over them. And it's all I can really think about or see or hear. I have a recording of his voice; it was just of him laughing, of his laugh, because he had a really funny laugh."

"So when that happens, I try to replay that because if not, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic because all I can hear is, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe." Or him screaming," Carter-Mixon added.

Family members of Manuel Ellis took the podium at a news conference Thursday, remembering the 33-year-old as a brother, son, and an uncle who they have missed at the family dinner table for over a year.

That said, if the aforementioned officers are convicted, the standard sentencing range for second-degree murder with no prior criminal history is 10 to 18 years in prison. Meanwhile, the standard range for first-degree manslaughter with no prior criminal history is 6.5 to 8.5 years. However, the maximum sentence for both charges is life in prison, according to AG Ferguson.

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