Fallout from the Manny Ellis Case: Resignation of Three Tacoma Officers
Fallout–In a significant development, the three Tacoma police officers who were acquitted last month in the death of Manuel Ellis in 2020 have chosen to resign from the department. This decision follows mounting public outrage and protests, as well as questions surrounding the circumstances of Ellis’s death. The voluntary resignation agreements, which include a substantial monetary settlement for each officer, were revealed in a statement from Tacoma City Manager Elizabeth Pauli on Tuesday.
Fallout–Resignation Agreements and Compensation:
Fallout–Former Tacoma Police Officers Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins, and Timothy Rankine voluntarily entered into resignation agreements with the City of Tacoma. In exchange for their resignations, each officer received a compensation of $500,000, as outlined in the released voluntary resignation agreements. The city’s statement emphasized that these agreements aim to pave a responsible and constructive path forward for the community and the Tacoma Police Department.
Fallout–Manuel “Manny Ellis” and the Tragic Events of 2020:
Fallout–Manuel Ellis, a Black man, tragically died in police custody in 2020 after repeatedly expressing difficulty breathing during his arrest. The officers involved—Burbank, Collins, and Rankine—were acquitted of charges in December 2023 after pleading not guilty. Ellis’s pleas of “I can’t breathe” were captured on a police dispatch radio, revealing the distressing circumstances of his arrest on March 3, 2020, for allegedly attempting to open car doors of occupied vehicles.
Fallout-Allegations and Court Proceedings:
Court documents detailed the allegations against the officers, including accusations that Burbank and Collins tackled and struck Ellis, deployed a taser, and applied an LVNR without justification. Furthermore, they were accused of neglecting to provide aid or call for medical assistance, opting instead to put Ellis in “hogtie restraints.” Rankine was alleged to have held Ellis in a prone position, applying pressure to his back despite the victim’s repeated assertions that he could not breathe.
The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Ellis’s cause of death was respiratory arrest due to hypoxia, a condition resulting from the body being deprived of oxygen, caused by physical restraint. The defense argued during the trial that Ellis died from a lethal amount of methamphetamine in his system and preexisting heart conditions.
Police Chief’s Statement and Policy Changes:
In response to the resignations, Tacoma Police Chief Avery Moore released a statement indicating that the officers were not found to be in violation of the 2020 use-of-force policies. He acknowledged, however, that the policies in place at the time failed to serve the best interests of the police department or the community. The chief disclosed that the policies had been updated since then, superseding the ones in effect in March 2020.
Community Impact and Widespread Protests:
The death of Manny Ellis sent shockwaves through the city of Tacoma, sparking widespread protests and calls for justice. The controversial trial and subsequent acquittals intensified tensions and highlighted concerns about police accountability. Ellis’s case became a focal point for activists advocating for police reform and greater transparency in law enforcement proceedings.
The resignation of the three Tacoma police officers involved in the Manny Ellis case raises important questions about the state of policing and accountability within the community. The voluntary nature of their departure, coupled with the substantial monetary settlements, adds another layer of complexity to an already contentious situation. As Tacoma grapples with the aftermath of this high-profile case, the broader issues of police reform, transparency, and community trust remain at the forefront of public discourse.