Tacoma officer who was there the night Manny Ellis died to testify in officers’ trial

TACOMA, Wash. — Another officer will take the stand on Wednesday in the trial of three Tacoma Police officers accused of killing Manual Ellis, an unarmed, 33-year-old Black man.

The defense team is viewing Tacoma Police Officer Masyih Ford as a key witness.

Ford is one of the officers who responded to the incident on the night of March 3, 2020, when Ellis died. Ford was exonerated of any wrongdoing in Ellis’ death after a months-long internal investigation by the Tacoma Police Department.

The defense has been focusing on Ellis’ past drug use and highlighted previous run-ins with law enforcement, stating that in 2019, Ellis charged at Pierce County Sheriff’s Department deputies while he was high on methamphetamine. During that incident, police used a stun gun.

Then attention was drawn to a domestic violence incident in 2015.

On the night of Mar. 3, 2020, Ellis was stopped by police as he walked home. Officers initially described Ellis as the aggressor, but home security and cellphone video showed that Tacoma Police officers tackled, shocked, and repeatedly punched Ellis, at one point squeezing his neck so hard that he protested, saying he couldn’t breathe.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner ruled Ellis’ death a homicide caused by physical restraint, but defense attorneys say meth in Ellis’ system — as well as an enlarged heart — caused him to die.

Tacoma Police officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, both white, are both charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Timothy Rankine, who is Asian American, was charged with first-degree manslaughter.

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