Medical examiner who signed Manuel Ellis’ death certificate ruled an ‘impeachable witness’

VIDEO: Medical examiner who signed Manuel Ellis' death certificate ruled an 'impeachable witness'

TACOMA, Wash. — It was former Pierce County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark who signed the certificate calling the death of Manuel Ellis a homicide. KIRO 7 learned Clark is on the Pierce County prosecutor's, “Potential Impeachment recurring witness list.”

That finding means if Clark is called to testify in a homicide case, the court, and possibly jurors, must be notified that his past actions could be used to cast doubt on his testimony.

According to documents obtained by KIRO 7, Clark recently petitioned to be removed from the list but was informed, “The PI [Potential Impeachment] committee has determined that the allegations of professional missteps made during the course of the two whistleblower complaints is information about which prosecutors are required to give notice.”

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KIRO 7 has reported on whistleblower complaints filed by employees at the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office that resulted in Clark announcing his retirement last fall. Several investigators and family members of people who died called some of Clark’s findings in death investigations into question. One, the death of 16 -year -old Jordon Gish in 2017, was ruled a suicide by Clark. The death was recently reclassified as accidental.

A new chief medical examiner has taken over. But Clark, who remains on the county payroll, was still running the office March 3 when Manuel Ellis died.

James Bible, the attorney representing Ellis’ family, says despite Clark being listed as an impeachable witness, he trusts Clark’s analysis of the 33 -year -old Ellis’ death.

“We have a finding of homicide by somebody that’s traditionally worked on behalf of the state and had testified on behalf of the state,” said Bible.

Newly surfaced cell phone video shows Ellis in a struggle with Tacoma police officers, Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, including what appears to be an arm placed around Ellis' neck by one officer as another aims a Taser. Two other officers, Masyih Ford and Christopher Rankine, are also under investigation in connection with the incident. Ellis died after he was heard telling officers taking him into custody that he couldn't breathe.

“The reality is that Manny Ellis had his hands in the air like this, a traditional sign of 'I give up' while arms were wrapped around his neck, and he was tasered repeatedly,” Bible said.

Michael Staropoli, an attorney representing two of four officers under investigation following Ellis’ death — including Matthew Collins — issued a statement after the video was made public. “We continue to see selectively released videos that capture only pieces of the event. There are those who purport that these video clips define the entire encounter. These clips are presented without any context of what happened leading up to the moments that are reflected on video or those moments that followed.”