BLUE FLU: Tacoma police call in sick after fellow officers charged in death of Manuel Ellis

Sources within the Tacoma Police Department told The Post Millennial that nearly an entire patrol shift on Thursday either called out sick or absent in response to the charges they believe were wrongfully placed against the officers.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA

Tacoma police officers called in sick or absent on Thursday after three Tacoma police officers were charged after a yearlong investigation over the death of Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old black father that died in police custody last year.

Tacoma police officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins, were charged with second-degree murder, while Timothy Rankine was charged with first-degree manslaughter, the state attorney general said in a statement. The maximum sentence for both offenses is life in prison. The three Tacoma police officers were arrested Thursday.

This is the first time the Washington State attorneys general’s office has filed criminal charges against police officers for unlawful use of deadly force.

Sources within the Tacoma Police Department told The Post Millennial that nearly an entire patrol shift on Thursday either called out sick or absent in response to the charges they believe were wrongfully placed against the officers. Multiple officers that had been working when the charges were allegedly decided to stop responding to calls and leave their shift early.

Ellis died in Tacoma while in police custody on March 3, 2020.

An autopsy by the Pierce County Medical Examiner concluded the death a homicide as a result of physical restraint, but included that Ellis had a fatal amount of methamphetamine in his system and had dilated cardiomyopathy which were contributing factors in his death.

Under restraint by Tacoma police officers, Ellis complained and said "I can’t breathe." A nearly identical scenario that played out for George Floyd in Minnesota.

Despite Manuel Ellis’ family remembering their loved one as peaceful musician at church, Ellis had an extensive criminal history and at the time of his death he had a pending second-degree robbery case.

The encounter began after officers' Burbank and Collins reported seeing Ellis trying to get into occupied cars at a red light while walking to the local convenience store, police documents show.

The officers said Ellis punched the window of their police vehicle and attacked them as they were stepping out, according to statements from other officers’ cited in the charging documents.

However, multiple witness testimonies said officers attacked Ellis unprovoked thus counteracting the officers' claims that Ellis was the aggressor.

During the physical altercation, Collins said he attempted a chokehold on Ellis while Burbank reported discharging his Taser in response to Ellis resisting arrest. Video evidence taken by witnesses shows the officers' statements to be true although the video also allegedly showed Ellis with his hands-up.

One of the videos shot by a witness failed to show Ellis striking the officers although it did show him resisting the officers’ efforts to restrain him, the statement said.

Testimony from both Burbank and Collins given to Washington State Patrol was said to have differed in multiple ways, while the witness testimonies were remarkably similar and failed to show Ellis assaulting the officers.

According to Collins, Ellis lifted him up "like a child" and threw him to the ground. Burbank’s testimony leaves that detail out but noted there was a scuffle between the two.

When asked by investigators whether it was clear Ellis was struggling to breathe prior to his death, officer Burbank said "Not that I recall, no," which was contrary to the video evidence produced by witnesses.

According to Washington State Patrol’s investigation, these differences were enough to charge the officers of the potential to spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson received WSP’s investigation in early November, labeling it the "top priority."

The Tacoma Police Union blasted the charges in a statement and said they "look forward to the trial."

"We are disappointed that facts were ignored in favor of what appears to be a politically motivated witch hunt. We look forward to trial. An unbiased jury will find that the officers broke no laws and, in fact, acted in accordance with the law, their training, and Tacoma Police Department policies. An unbiased jury will not allow these fine public servants to be sacrificed at the altar of public sentiment. Like every community member, our officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty," the statement said.

The Tacoma Police Department released a statement Thursday afternoon shortly after the charges were announced.

"The Tacoma Police Department will now start its own internal review of the actions of the officers involved in this incident. Based on that investigation, we will make further determination regarding any disciplinary actions, policy, or training changes that may occur based on the findings," Tacoma PD said in a statement.

"We will issue Notice of Investigation to officers involved in the incident. This will also include determining the departmental status of the involved officers in accordance with departmental policies and procedures, contractual obligations and following due process," the statement continued.


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