Manuel Ellis (2020)

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Witness video
News report with witness video

On March 3, 2020, Tacoma Washington Police Department officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins encountered Ellis. Police claimed that Ellis was attempting to open the door of someone else's car before punching the officers' vehicle windows. Ellis picked up and body-slammed one officer, prompting the second officer to engage and detain Ellis.[1][2][3] A taser was used. Ellis' legs were restrained and a "spit hood" was placed over his head.[4]

Witnesses claimed that Ellis and the officers spoke briefly before Ellis walked away. The officers drove up behind Ellis, and Burbank struck him with his car door, knocking him to the ground.[1]

Video from multiple witnesses collectively showed that Burbank picked Ellis up and threw him to the ground before striking Ellis with his fists. Collins pressed his body onto Ellis', and struck Ellis with his fists. Collins wrapped his arms around Ellis' neck as a "lateral vascular neck restraint", which some courts have determined can constitute deadly force. Burbank deployed his Taser multiple times. Ellis was handcuffed and left on his stomach.[1]

Officer Timothy Rankine arrived and knelt on Ellis' back as Ellis complained several times that he could not breathe. Officers hogtied Ellis and eventually rolled him onto his side. Rankine rolled Ellis onto his stomach and knelt on him until the paramedics arrived.[1]

A Pierce County Washington Sheriff's Department deputy was also at the scene and "participated in restraining" Ellis.[5]

Ellis died at the scene.[2]

Part of the incident was captured on witnesses' cell phone videos.[2] A security system captured some audio.[4]

The Pierce County Washington Sheriff's Department opened an investigation.[2]

The officers were placed on administrative leave.

In March 2020, the officers were returned to duty.[6]

On June 2, 2020, the medical examiner concluded that Ellis died from respiratory arrest to hypoxia, due to physical restraint, with complications from drug use and an enlarged heart.[2]

On June 3, 2020, the officers were returned to administrative leave.[7][5]

On June 5, 2020, the Tacoma City Council asked the state to investigate the incident.[8]

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) was assigned to review the results of the Sheriff's investigation.[8]

In June 2020, witnesses' video was released, showing officers using a choke-hold on Ellis for approximately 10 seconds before his body went limp. Officers can be seen kneeling on Ellis.[9][10][11]

As a Pierce County Washington Sheriff's Department deputy had responded to the incident, the investigation was moved under the WSP.[5]

On November 13, 2020, the WSP forwarded the results of their investigation to the Attorney General's Office.[12]

On May 27, 2021, the state Attorney General charged Burbank and Collins with second-degree murder, which typically carries a sentence of 10 to 18 years in prison. Rankine was charged with first-degree manslaughter, which typically carries a sentence of 6.5 to 8.5 years in prison. The maximum sentence for both offenses is life in prison.[1]

On May 28, 2021, the officers pleaded not guilty.[13]

On October 3, 2023, the officers' trial started.[14]

On December 21, 2023, a jury found the officers not guilty.[15] After the verdict, the city resumed its internal investigation.[16]

On January 12, 2024, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington announced that they were reviewing the incident for possible "violations of federal criminal statutes".[17]

On January 15, 2024, an internal investigation cleared the officers of any major policy violations. Collins received a written reprimand for failing to be courteous to the public.[16]

On January 16, 2024, the officers each accepted $500,000 from the city to resign. The officers may receive other funds due to labor agreements with the city and the union.[16]

Officers Involved

Public Comments


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 AG Ferguson charges three officers in the killing of Manuel Ellis, Washington State Attorney General, 2021-05-27
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Death of Tacoma man in police custody was due to respiratory arrest, autopsy finds, KOMO, 2020-06-03
  3. Will James, Three Tacoma police officers charged in the killing of Manuel Ellis, KNKX, 2021-05-27
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kari Plog, 'I can't breathe, sir': Family of Manuel Ellis renews call for state investigation amid new video, KNKX, 2020-06-09
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Will James, State patrol will investigate Manuel Ellis' death, governor says, KNKX, 2020-06-17
  6. Holly Matkin, 3 Cops Charged In Death Of Manuel Ellis, Who Died While Restrained With Fatal Level Of Meth In System, Police Tribune, 2021-05-27
  7. Kari Plog, 'No more talking.' Manuel Ellis dies by homicide, report says, and family demands accountability, KNKX, 2020-06-04
  8. 8.0 8.1 Kari Plog, Tacoma mayor wants officers in Manuel Ellis case fired, City Council asks for state review, KNKX, 2020-06-05
  9. Will James, New video shows officer putting arm around Manuel Ellis' neck, pressing knee into his body, KNKX, 2020-06-16
  10. Raw footage of Tacoma police arresting Manuel Ellis, News Tribune, 2020-06-14
  11. Video contradicts claim that 'no one choked' Manuel Ellis, KING 5 Seattle, 2020-06-16
  12. Kari Plog, State patrol hands over Manuel Ellis investigation to attorney general for charging decision, KNKX, 2020-11-13
  13. Officers plead not guilty in killing of Manuel Ellis, KNKX, 2021-05-28
  14. Deborah Horne, Opening statements begin in trial of 3 Tacoma police officers charged in Manny Ellis’ death, KIRO, 2023-10-03
  15. Jury finds 3 officers not guilty in Manuel Ellis' 2020 death, ABC News, 2023-12-21
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Peter Talbot, Tacoma cops acquitted in death of Manuel Ellis will get $500K each to resign, city says, The News Tribune, 2024-01-16
  17. U.S. attorney for western Washington to independently review Manuel Ellis' death, KING5, 2024-01-12