In the ongoing trial of three Tacoma, Washington, police officers charged with the death of Manuel Ellis, an expert in forensic pathology testified that Ellis likely would have lived if not for the officers’ actions to restrain him. Former Washington, D.C. chief medical examiner Roger Mitchell confirmed that Ellis died from oxygen deprivation due to physical restraint, confirming Dr. Thomas Clark’s ruling.
Officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank are charged with murder and manslaughter in Ellis’ death, while Officer Timothy Rankine is charged with manslaughter. Mitchell testified that Ellis’ last words were “I can’t breathe,” and that heavy breathing is the body’s natural cure for acidosis. All three officers have pleaded not guilty and remain employed by the Tacoma Police Department on paid leave.
The trial of a police officer who used deadly force in an altercation involving Ellis, a Black man, has been halted due to a lack of evidence. The officers were characterized as aggressors by two eyewitnesses, and lawyers for the officers claim it was Ellis who acted aggressively.
The trial is set to resume on Tuesday, with the prosecution expected to call a forensic audio expert to testify. The first trial under a Washington state law allows for easier prosecution of police who use deadly force, based on Ellis’s condition, airway presence, and deteriorating heart rate and breathing.