An independent investigation by the Washington State Patrol shows there was a fifth officer directly involved in the police death of Manuel Ellis. The officer has since been placed on leave.
That is prompting renewed calls for murder charges against those officers.
The family’s lawyer, James Bible, says there are things in this report the family did not know. Proof, he says, that an independent investigation was always needed to get to the bottom of what happened here last March.
Until now, they said they never knew another officer was involved in this case.
“And the reality that another officer was involved in the murder of Manny Ellis is heartbreaking,” said Bible.
The moments before Ellis’ death at the hands of Tacoma Police were recorded by several bystanders last March.
But it is only now that the family is learning there were at least five officers who had direct contact with the 33-year-old Tacoma man.
“First off, there was a remarkable coverup by the city of Tacoma and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office,” said Bible.
Second, he says the report by the Washington State Patrol shows that eyewitness videos contradict the police officers’ written recollections of the incident.
In the months since Ellis died, his family has been demanding justice, contending that the Pierce County sheriff did not adequately investigate the Tacoma Police Department’s involvement in Ellis’ death, demanding that the state conduct an independent investigation.
For the first time the names of the Tacoma officers involved were also released: Matthew Collins, Christopher Burbank, Timothy Rankine, Masyih Ford and now a fifth officer, 26-year-old Armando Farinas, who has been with the department for three years.
Farinas was placed on paid administrative leave on Friday, pending a final report in the investigation and charging decisions by the state’s attorney general’s office, according to the Tacoma Police Department.
Bible, the family’s lawyer, says they should all be charged.
“This is murder,” said Bible. “There is no longer any more time for coverup. If these officers had any sort of dignity whatsoever they would turn in their badges themselves.”
In fact, he says the next step should be murder charges against all of the officers involved here, including a Pierce County sergeant who was just identified.
That is a decision the Pierce County prosecutor will have to make.
There is no comment from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office because they say under Initiative 940, which covers these cases, they are not allowed to speak while the investigation is going on.
As for the Ellis family, their lawyer says they are “heartbroken” once again.
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