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Acquittal of Tacoma Officers in Black Man’s Death Sparks Outcry and Division

Photo by Aaron Joseczfyk/UP

A jury in Tacoma, Washington, cleared three white police officers of all charges in connection with the 2020 death of Manuel “Manny” Ellis, a black man who passed away while in the care of the police. Officer Timothy Rankine was exonerated of first-degree manslaughter charges, and Officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins were found not guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Despite the possibility of a life sentence if found guilty, they were acquitted. In response to the accusations made against them, all three of the cops entered not-guilty pleas.

Photo by Aaron Joseczfyk/UP

Racial Justice Concerns

Manuel Ellis died while handcuffed and hogtied in police custody after his arrest. The circumstances surrounding his detention involved discrepancies between eyewitness accounts and police reports. During the trial, a bystander’s video captured part of the incident, where Ellis is heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” echoing similar tragic phrases in cases like George Floyd’s.

The officers were accused of employing deadly force during Ellis’s apprehension, with allegations of tasering, tackling, and striking Ellis without justification. Prosecutors argued that excessive physical force contributed to Ellis’s death. Conversely, the defense contended that Ellis’s demise was due to methamphetamine ingestion and pre-existing health conditions.

The state charged the officers in a historic move in May 2021, marking Washington’s first time pursuing criminal charges against law enforcement for using deadly force. While the officers’ trial ended in acquittals, the incident has fueled protests and debates about racial justice and police accountability, echoing similar sentiments seen in George Floyd’s case.

READ ALSO: Tacoma police officers acquitted of murder charges in death of Black suspect

Emotions After Officers’ Acquittal

The city of Tacoma and its police department acknowledged the pain caused by Ellis’s death and the divisions within the community. They emphasized the department’s commitment to establishing transparent and fair public safety measures to rebuild trust between officers and the community.

Despite the legal outcome, Ellis’s family and supporters expressed anguish and disappointment as they left the courtroom, indicating the ongoing emotional toll and unresolved questions about justice.

READ ALSO: Third ex-officer gives tearful testimony in George Floyd civil rights case

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