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Washington: Three police officers acquitted in killing Manuel Ellis in 2020

A jury found officers Matthew Collins, Christopher Burbank and Timothy Rankine not guilty. They faced charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Juicio por la muerte de Manuel Ellis.

(Screenshot / YouTube: KING 5 Seattle)

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After a trial that lasted just over two months, three police officers accused of killing Manuel Ellis in Tacoma, Wash., in 2020 have been acquitted of all charges.

Prosecutors wanted to charge officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, while officer Timothy Rankine only with the crime of involuntary manslaughter.

The Ellis family’s attorney, Matthew Ericksen, criticized the final verdict in a statement reported by the Associated Press:

The biggest reason why I personally think this jury found reasonable doubt is because the defense was essentially allowed to put Manny Ellis on trial. The defense attorneys were allowed to dredge up Manny’s past and repeat to the jury again and again Manny’s prior arrests in 2015 and 2019. That unfairly prejudiced jurors against Manny.

The defense of the accused always maintained that Ellis died as a result of drug use and heart disease, according to the BBC.

Ellis' death

Ellis' death occurred on March 3, 2020, when he was returning to his home in Tacoma. As he walked down the street, a police vehicle was stopped at a traffic light next to where the victim was passing. Inside were Officers Burbank and Collins, who stopped Ellis after seeing him try to open the door of a parked car.

The officers got out of the patrol car and, as they approached Ellis, he displayed an aggressive attitude and even picked up Collins and threw him to the ground, as they stated. Witnesses denied these claims. Additionally, a video shows how Burbank neutralized the victim with a taser and Collins grabbed him by the neck with one arm.

Later, more officers arrived at the scene, including Rankine, who handcuffed Ellis. After that, and with the victim lying face down on the ground, he placed his knee on his back.

Sara McDowell, one of the witnesses who testified, said that "it was the worst thing I have ever seen," alluding to the alleged abuse of force used by the agents. Now, a jury found the officers not guilty of all charges.