I’ve been covering the police killing of Manuel Ellis in Tacoma as a journalist since last year. It looks like we may have finally turned a corner in this country in terms of police accountability after the death of George Floyd.
Three Tacoma police officers were charged with felonies in the case of Manuel Ellis who died while handcuffed in police custody. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed 2nd degree murder charges against two officers (Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins) and manslaughter against a third (Timothy Rankine) on May 27.
The three men were arraigned on May 28 in Pierce County Superior Court and Judge Michael Schwartz set bail for $100,000 for each defendant. Prosecutors had asked for $1 million dollars bail, claiming that amount had been approved by the courts for similar crimes in Pierce County.
This is going to be a huge national news story…
Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, died March 3, 2020 at 96th Street South and Ainsworth Avenue as police restrained him. He’d been walking home from getting water and donuts at a convenience store after playing drums at church.
Video showed him saying: “Can’t breathe, sir, can’t breathe.”
He died from lack of oxygen and his death was ruled a homicide.
Copy of court document prepared by Washington State Attorney General’s office accusing the officers of criminal acts:
In the wake of hundreds of marches against police brutality all across the nation and a very strong and dedicated Black Lives Matter movement, local municipalities and county governments are finally starting to address the issue of police violence directly, instead of continuing to ignore the deaths of young men and women of color at the hands of law enforcement officers.
We still have a long way to go to establish strong citizen oversight and accountability for law enforcement officers. Previously, Washington state had the weakest law in the nation regarding prosecution of police, but recent legislation has made it easier to hold cops accountable and more laws are on the way through the state legislature which will address this problem. The Seattle police dept has been working under a consent decree after an extensive review by the US Dept of Justice for excessive use of force and racial profiling, so I have been covering this issue for a long time for Democracy Watch News and other US media.
It’s good to see some movement on this front and I believe that the Black Lives Matter movement has succeeded in changing the public dialogue on many issues affecting marginalized populations. Those efforts have resulted in a new vital and effective civil rights movement in the USA.
I’ve seen some changes in the news coverage among my colleagues in journalism and in the way that public officials approach policing policy – so it’s a good start!
Unfortunately, we can’t bring back the folks who have been killed by police, but maybe we can stop the madness that has led to this deplorable situation in this country. I’m hoping that the prosecution of police in Minneapolis and Tacoma will signal a new era where cops are finally held responsible for their actions instead of being granted immunity from prosecution. Protection from punishment or prosecution has been the goal of many so-called police unions, which are actually professional guilds, not labor unions. In fact, the Seattle police guild has been kicked out of the Martin Luther King Co Labor council.
Communities all around the nation are in need of accountability, healing and reconciliation after a very difficult and rocky transition into the 21st Century. We can all do our part to further this dialogue by demanding justice for our brothers and sisters everywhere.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”