Business owner bails out three officers who were charged with murder: ‘I wasn’t about to see them sit in jail’

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TACOMA, WA – A local businessman in Tacoma posted the bail for three Tacoma Police officers that have been charged with the alleged Match 2020 murder of Manuel Ellis, a suspect who’d died in police custody following a physical struggle.

With the contentious nature of the case, the businessman has received the likes of harassing calls, but also some level of local support.

We at Law Enforcement Today recently reported on the charging of Tacoma Police officers Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins and Timothy Rankine in connection with the March 3rd, 2020, death of Ellis during an arrest that was preceded by a physical struggle.

Officers Burbank and Collins were charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, whereas Officer Rankine was charged only with first-degree manslaughter.

Josh Harris, who owns a local construction company, decided to pay the bail for all three officers charged – with bail reportedly being set at $100K for each defendant.

Harris noted that he couldn’t stand to see the officers sitting in jail during the Memorial Day holiday, since they are reportedly veterans:

“Being the fact that they were veterans, highly decorated veterans, I wasn’t about to see them sit in jail over Memorial Day weekend. We’re blessed. I had the funds available to do it. I know several people have offered to step up and reimburse me and if that happens great, but that’s not the intention.”

All three of the officers charged in Ellis’ death have pleaded not guilty to their charges.

Harris also wanted to show support to the officers, citing that he has interacted with them locally and that the money is really not that big of a deal:

“Compared to what these guys were up against right now is really nothing. Their families are highly affected and their friends are highly affected and their department is highly affected.”

However, what Harris is not sure of exactly is how his information was released after he posted the bail, noting that after he bonded the officers out there were flyers circulating with his name and personal cell phone number:

“I know about the flyer going around that I’m a fascist and this and that. But everyone that knows me knows that I’m all about the community, I’m all about giving back. I’m involved in several programs that help people from children on fishing programs and sport programs to adults struggling with addiction.”

While Harris is doing what he can to support the officers, he’s also aware that a life was unfortunately lost back in March of last year.

He says that when it comes to the case, he’s going to let the courts do their thing and respect what comes from the process:

“We have due process and we need to let that play out and people need to take a deep breath and relax and sit back and let the courts figure things out. Let everything, all the evidence be brought out and that the truth will lay out there and a decision will be made and people need to respect that decision.”

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The case being brought against the officers has been one drawing heavy attention in the Tacoma area, which the case lies heavily on whether or not the force exerted by officers during that March 2020 arrest crossed the legal threshold.

Here’s our previous report on the case lodged against these officers.

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TACOMA, WA –  Three Tacoma, Washington, police officers have been charged in the death of Manuel Ellis, a black man who died last year after he was handcuffed and restrained.

The investigation has been plagued for over a year with conflicting evidence. Law enforcement sources described Ellis as a violent aggressor who attacked the police, and witnesses claimed police attacked Ellis without provocation.

Officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins were charged with second-degree murder, and Officer Timothy Rankine was charged with first-degree manslaughter, the state attorney general has announced.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the charges in Pierce County Superior Court Thursday.

This is the first time the Washington Attorney General’s Office has criminally charged police officers for the unlawful use of deadly force, and just the second time homicide charges have been filed in Washington against law enforcement officers since Washingtonians adopted Initiative 940 in November 2018.

Ellis was killed on March 3, 2020, in Tacoma while being detained by Tacoma Police. The investigation was originally handled by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office until it was discovered that Pierce County Sheriff’s personnel were involved in the incident.

Subsequently, Gov. Jay Inslee directed the Washington State Patrol to investigate Ellis’ death and referred the charging decision to the Attorney General.

The charges faced vigorous opposition from the Tacoma Police Union, who said the officers followed the law and their training:

“We are disappointed that facts were ignored in favor of what appears to be a politically motivated witch hunt. We look forward to trial. An unbiased jury will find that the officers broke no laws and, in fact, acted in accordance with the law, their training, and Tacoma Police Department policies.

“An unbiased jury will not allow these fine public servants to be sacrificed at the altar of public sentiment. Like every community member, our officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

According to the charging document, Ellis, 33, was stopped by police while he was walking home. Authorities said at the time that he was alleged to have been harassing a woman at an intersection.

Police said Ellis, under the influence of methamphetamine, ran up to officers and began pounding on the police car for no reason. Officers said that when one officer exited the vehicle, Ellis grabbed him and threw him to the ground.

However, witnesses said the officers were unprovoked and attacked Ellis, punching him and slamming him to the ground, according to the arrest affidavit.

The document goes on to say that officers hogtied Ellis as he cried out, “I can’t breathe.”

The charging document, which listed the witnesses by initials only, said:

“S.M. and K.L. remember that when they stopped at the red light, Ellis was facing them and walking along the sidewalk toward their location.  As Ellis walked by the police car, he stopped and appeared to briefly interact with the officers as they sat in their car.  It looked to S.M. and K.L. like just a casual conversation, almost as if ‘the officers knew him from somewhere maybe,’ S.M. would later say. 

“Both S.M. and K.L. remember seeing a peaceful, apparently respectful conversation, with no signs of aggression from Ellis.  After that exchange, which S.M. estimated lasted about ‘10 to 15 seconds,’ Ellis turned away from the officers and began to walk away.”

Witnesses said that as Ellis walked away, the officers exited their police car and attacked the man:

“The officers did not let Ellis walk away.  Instead, as both S.M. and K.L. described witnessing, Burbank abruptly swung open the passenger door of the car, striking Ellis from behind and knocking him to his knees.  S.C. similarly described seeing the passenger door to the police car open suddenly and then seeing Ellis fall to the ground.

“S.M. and K.L. then saw Burbank emerge from the passenger side of the car and get on top of Ellis as Ellis tried to get back up.  All three of the witnesses described then seeing the driver of the police car, Collins, open his door and run around the front of the car towards Ellis.”

At this point, two of the witnesses began recording the incident on their cell phones. The incident was also captured on a nearby residence’s doorbell camera and on police radio traffic.

The video, according to the complaint, shows Burbank slamming Ellis to the pavement. The video then shows Collins striking Ellis in the head with his fist. Burbank then draws his Taser.

In the doorbell camera video, Ellis can be heard screaming: “I can’t breathe, sir. I can’t breathe,” followed by an officer saying: “Shut the fuck up.”

At this point, one witness told investigators she began shouting:

Hey!  Stop!  Oh my god, stop hitting him!  Stop hitting him!  Just arrest him.”

The complaint describes Collins wrapping his arm around the front of Ellis’ neck, as Burbank Tased Ellis.

The witnesses stated that Ellis never fought back and never struck the officers. The video depicts Ellis struggling at times against the officers’ restraints but does not show Ellis attempting to strike the officers at any point.

After being tased, the video shows Ellis motionless with Collins’s arm still applying pressure to this neck. Collins allowed Ellis to fall limb to the ground, and then pushed his face into the pavement, according to the complaint.

Rankine arrived at the scene shortly after the initial encounter, according to the statement. Although Ellis was already in handcuffs, Rankine reportedly put all of his weight on him – his right knee on the top of his spine and his left knee on his lower back.

The complaint said:

“After applying pressure to Ellis’s back, Rankine recalled hearing Ellis ‘making really strange animal grunting noises’, and then hearing him say in a ‘very calm, normal voice’ that he could not breathe,”

“Rankine responded that ‘if you’re talking to me, you can breathe just fine.’”

Tacoma’s mayor, Victoria Woodards, said that the arrests of the officers came following an extensive investigation:

“I know it has taken much, much longer to get to this point than any of us ever expected or wanted. But I also believe it allows for the thorough independent review that Manny Ellis’s family and the Tacoma community deserved.”

Last June, officers Collins, Burbank, and Rankine were placed on administrative leave.

The county medical examiner’s office reported that Ellis died due to hypoxia as a result of physical restraint. Other factors that contributed to his death included fatal levels of methamphetamine in his system. He also had heart disease.

The medical examiner’s report read:

“Death, therefore, is certified as being due to hypoxia as a result of physical restraint with contributing conditions of methamphetamine intoxication and a dilated heart.”

Although the medical examiner ruled the manner of death as homicide, he said:

“An argument could be made that the extremely high methamphetamine concentration should be considered the primary factor.”

Investigators initially said Ellis appeared to be experiencing excited delirium during the incident. Excited delirium is a syndrome sometimes characterized as a potentially fatal state of extreme agitation often caused by drugs like methamphetamines.

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