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New Video In Manuel Ellis Case 'Utterly Disgusting,' Family Lawyer Says As They Push For Charges
The new eyewitness video shows Tacoma police officers restraining Manuel Ellis around the neck and kneeling on him shortly before he died. Washington state authorities have now taken over the case.
Newly surfaced video of Manuel Ellis’ fatal arrest appears to show police officers kneeling on him after restraining him by the neck and tasing him.
The muted, 59-second clip, released by Ellis’ family lawyer on Monday, paints a more comprehensive picture of the unarmed Black man’s deadly encounter with police on March 3.
The video, filmed by an anonymous eyewitness, provides the clearest vantage point so far of the moments leading to Ellis’ death. It begins with Ellis struggling with an officer, who appears to have his arm wrapped around Ellis’ neck. The two are already on the ground when the recording begins.
The officer rolls Ellis on his side while a second policeman deploys his taser on the 33-year-old. Ellis hands shoot up in the air as his back smacks the concrete. After roughly 10 seconds, the officer holding Ellis by the neck releases him and flips him onto his stomach. Ellis thrashes about, kicking his legs in the air.
Then, an officer then appears to kneel on Ellis. It’s unclear whether the officer placed his knee on his neck, back, or head.
“It shows them rubbing his face into the ground and putting their knee somewhere — either on his neck or near his neck, being violent with the top of his head in terms of moving it and rubbing it into the pavement,” James Bible, a civil rights lawyer representing Ellis’ family, told Oxygen.com.
As Ellis gasped for breath, officers also affixed a spit mask to his face, he said.
“It’s utterly disgusting and it’s further evidence that charges should be filed in this case,” Bible added.
Both county authorities and lawyers for the officers previously denied Ellis was choked or knelt on.
“No one put a knee on Mr. Ellis’ throat and no one choked Mr. Ellis,” attorneys Steven L. Meyers and Michael W Staropoli said in a statement obtained by Oxygen.com.
The new angle of the encounter “shows what they said didn’t happen,” Ellis' family said.
“It shows a police officer tasing my brother while my brother is in a chokehold with his hands up,” Monét Carter-Mixon, Ellis’ sister, told Oxygen.com. “It also shows them putting all of their weight on his head while he’s being tased.”
Chokeholds aren’t specifically banned by the Tacoma Police Department, a spokesperson for the department said.
Ellis’ death has been ruled a homicide. An autopsy revealed Ellis died of hypoxia, a lack of oxygen, due to physical restraint. Heart conditions and methamphetamine intoxication may have also contributed to his death.
Four officers involved in Ellis’ arrest—Matthew Collins, 37, Christopher Burbank, 34, Timothy Rankine, 31, and Masyih Ford, 28—have been placed on administrative leave. Collins and Burbank are both white. Rankine is Asian and Ford is Black, according to the Tacoma Police Department.
No charges have been filed against them.
It’s not entirely clear what led to the confrontation between Ellis and police. The 33-year-old musician was walking from a 7-Eleven when he was stopped. Authorities maintain Ellis banged on a squad car and was combative. The city’s police force doesn't utilize body cameras.
The only known footage of Ellis’ arrest — and his final moments — were recorded, in graphic detail, by other eyewitnesses.
Motorist Sara McDowell also filmed Ellis’ assault as she drove by the scene of the arrest.
“Hey! Stop! Oh my god, stop hitting him!” McDowell yelled, as officers struggled to subdue him.
“This is the best way to give the Ellis family and the entire community the thorough, fair and independent investigation this case demands,” Inslee said. “We must all demand that level of accountability.”
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, who were initially tasked with investigating Ellis’ death, faced intense scrutiny for its handling of the case. Last week, county prosecutors announced a sheriff’s deputy was on-scene — alongside city officers — at Ellis’ arrest, a conflict that wasn’t previously disclosed. The revelation ultimately jeopardized the county’s case, prompting state officials to intervene and initiate a fresh investigation.
“We and the Tacoma community will be watching this process unfold, and we will continue to advocate for justice for the family of Manuel Ellis and for all families in Washington state who have experienced this kind of tragic loss,” Tacoma’s Mayor Victoria Woodards told Oxygen.com.
The state’s attorney general is expected to make a charging decision once the state’s investigation is complete.
“I’m not satisfied,” his sister, Carter-Mixon, 29, said. “You can make all the announcements you want to make, but at the end of the day, no one’s been fired, no one’s been forced to step down, nobody’s been charged with anything.”
She, too, accused county investigators of “dragging their feet.”
Ellis’ family is impatient. After more than three months, the investigation into the murky police killing has yielded little progress. They’ve watched the now-viral police killings of George Floyd and later Rayshard Brooks; both cases in which officers were fired and charged with murder in a matter of days.
“This is utterly outrageous and it’s been far too slow in terms of action,” Bible, the family’s attorney said.
Former Atlanta Police officer Garrett Rolfe, who fired the fatal shots at Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot last Friday, was slapped with felony murder charges five days after he pulled the trigger. Brooks’ viral death also sparked the near-instant resignation of Atlanta’s embattled police chief.
“We authentically believe the events that led to the death of Manuel Ellis — if they’d occurred in Georgia — we’d already have criminal charges, the police chief would have been either fired, stepped down, or the officers would no longer be employed,” Bible added.