TACOMA, Wash. — The family of Manuel Ellis spoke out the day after the Pierce County Medical Examiner said he died from lack of oxygen while in police custody.
"My heart is so painful. As a mother, you can never imagine what it's like to bury your son, to look down in his eyes,” said Marcia Carter
As Carter spoke about her son you could hear the heartache in her voice.
The 33-year-old died in Tacoma police custody March 3. In the background of a 911 call, you can faintly hear Ellis say he can't breathe.
“We actually hear his last words,’ I can’t breathe.’ We actually hear somebody else saying,’ hobble him,’" said James Bible, Ellis family attorney.
The Pierce County Medical Examiner said Ellis died from hypoxia after being physically restrained. They found methamphetamine in his system and said his heart was enlarged.
His death was ruled a homicide.
Thursday the Ellis family gathered to demand justice.
"The Pierce County Sheriff's Office wanted to cover up my brother's murder,” said Monet Carter-Mixon. "Every single officer involved needs to be in a jumpsuit."
The Pierce County Sheriff's Department said officers found Ellis in distress.
"They asked if he needed help and he said he had warrants and that he wanted to talk, so they got out to talk to him and he was obviously in distress and when they did that he assaulted one of the officers,” said Det. Ed Troyer, Pierce County Sheriff's Department. "He was handcuffed, he was talking, he was breathing and then, throughout the process, he had trouble breathing and he told people, ‘I can't breathe.’ They put him on the side and called for medical aid."
Ellis died minutes later.
His family said he loved his kids and was a faithful man.
"I want to do the right thing. I want to do the right thing, is what my son said. He loved the Lord. He played the drums four nights a week at the church,” said Carter.
Wednesday evening hundreds of people gathered in the spot Ellis died for a candlelight vigil.
His family is calling for a fair, open and honest investigation.
"We want a conviction, we want bad officers out of neighborhoods, out of our homes, away from our people. We're done dying,” said Sheley Anderson, Regional NAACP Vice President.
"A murder happened here and we’re going to prove it,” said Bible.
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