A black man who died while being restrained by police in Tacoma, WA, died as a result of oxygen deprivation, according to a medical examiner’s report released Wednesday.
Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old father of two, died in March at the hands of Tacoma police. He could be heard calling out, “I can’t breathe,” while officers restrained him. The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office has now ruled his death as a homicide. The medical examiner determined Ellis died of respiratory arrest due to hypoxia caused by physical restraint.
Following the release of the report, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards promised to get answers. She said in a statement, “I cannot imagine the pain that continues with the Ellis family loss, but I do know that our community wants both answers and justice, and so do I, and so does this entire council and administration,” according to MYNorthwest.
According to police, Ellis was walking in an intersection when officers noticed him “struggling.” He walked up to the officers and said, “I have warrants, I need to talk.” They claim shortly after, he assaulted one of them and was then handcuffed and restrained.
Investigators insist, unlike the death of George Floyd, he was not pinned down and that he was still breathing when paramedics arrived.
“There was no heads on knees. There was no cutting off of circulation, none of that. He was handcuffed. He was talking. He was breathing. Then throughout the process, he had trouble breathing, and he told people, ‘I can’t breathe,'” said Pierce County sheriff’s detective Ed Troyer.
So far, the only video investigators have found is from a nearby home security camera, but they say it’s “dark and offers little clarity.” A report is expected by the prosecutor at the end of this week or early next week.
“In the face of longstanding racism and recent national events,” Mayor Woodards continued. “We are devastated to have the death of Manuel Ellis become part of this national conversation.”
“As a family, we want answers,” said his mother, Marcia Carter, at a news conference on Thursday. “No more talking.”
Four involved officers, who have been identified as Christopher Burbank, 34; Matthew Collins, 37; Masyih Ford, 28; and Timothy Rankine, 31, were placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday, for a second time, after a report from the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office became public.