Defense digs into Manuel Ellis’ drug use at trial of Tacoma officers accused in his death

TACOMA, Wash. — The trial against three Tacoma Police officers charged in the death of Manuel Ellis entered a new phase on Monday.

Attorneys for the officers started questioning witnesses after the prosecution rested its case last week following six weeks of testimony.

A lawyer for one of the officers charged in the 2020 death of Manuel Ellis urged jurors to focus on Ellis’ past drug use and arrests.

Ellis died as he was being arrested. He told police he couldn’t breathe at least five times.

Witnesses have testified that the officers attacked the 33-year-old Black man, punching him, shocking him with a Taser and putting him in a chokehold face-down as he pleaded for breath.

But an attorney representing Tacoma officer Matthew Collins highlighted two previous arrests when Ellis was under the influence of methamphetamine, suggesting it made him aggressive.

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide caused by lack of oxygen from physical restraint.

Collins and Officer Christopher Burbank face second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, while Officer Timothy Rankine is charged with manslaughter.

Comments on this article