Tacoma city officials, residents react to Chauvin conviction, Manuel Ellis death investigation

TACOMA, Wash. — The mayor of Tacoma, the city manager and residents had the late Manuel Ellis in mind after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges in the death of George Floyd, 46.

Jurors on Tuesday found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 death of Floyd.

Chauvin, 45, was charged after a video of him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes went viral last year, sparking protests against racial inequality and police brutality nationwide.

In a statement released shortly after the trial concluded, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and City Manager Elizabeth Pauli stated:

“With today’s announcement of a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, we want to acknowledge the crushing weight and deep impacts that the death of George Floyd, this subsequent trial, and the wait to get to this verdict have had on our community and the entire nation. Juries play a crucial and oftentimes difficult role in our justice system, and we want to express our appreciation for this jury’s efforts to come to a decision in this monumental case.

“While the trial of Derek Chauvin comes to a close, we recognize that this historic moment alone does not lift the tension and weight that currently rest on our city or our country. As we reflect on today’s national news, we also acknowledge the continued local impacts of ongoing investigations – including the one into the death of Manuel Ellis – right here in Tacoma.”

“It doesn’t bring back the life, but I’m very grateful that there was justice done,” Tia Richard, a Tacoma resident, said. “There’s a sense of hope that not only justice can be done there but here (in Tacoma) as well.”

Family and friends of Ellis previously mentioned the similarities between the deaths of Floyd and Ellis, who died while he was in the custody of Tacoma police. In a 12-minute police radio recording taken the night of Ellis’ death, Ellis can be heard yelling, “Can’t breathe.”

Ellis’ death was ruled a homicide by the Pierce County Medical Examiner. The official cause of death was ruled respiratory arrest due to hypoxia due to physical restraint. Other contributing factors included methamphetamine and heart disease, according to the autopsy.

All Tacoma officers involved are on paid administrative leave until Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office finishes its investigation. A spokesperson with the attorney general’s office told KIRO 7 on Tuesday there wasn’t a specific date or timetable for the investigation’s conclusion.

In late February, the office expected a decision on whether the officers involved would face criminal charges for the death of Ellis. On the last day of March, the office announced it needs four to six weeks to finish the death investigation.

Tacoma resident Jackie Kaiser believes the convictions in Chauvin’s trial will set a precedent for Ellis and others killed while in police custody.

“Somebody had to be the one to show, ‘We’re not going to put up with it anymore.’ Too many people are dying by cops’ hands,” Kaiser said. “(The convictions) mean maybe (departments) need to open their eyes and train the cops to be better. I know they’re people, and I know they’re not all bad. There’s good cops. It’s just the ones that are bad make it bad for all the rest.”

“This is a first step towards systematic change and making real impact in the country,” Gray Sterling, a Tacoma resident, said. “It feels good to be validated as a person. It feels good to be on the right side of history.”