Two Tacoma police officers cleared of wrongdoing in Washington man’s 2020 death

Manuel 'Manny' Ellis died in police custody in March 2020

Investigators in Tacoma, Washington have decided not to issue charges against two city police officers involved in the killing of Manuel Ellis, 33, a Black man who died following a controversial 2020 traffic stop.

Authorities previously determined Ellis was repeatedly punched, tased and choked before being “hog-tied,” pinned to the ground, and placed in a spit hood around 11:21 p.m. on March 3, 2020 after encountering police while walking home from 7-Eleven, according to a Washington State Attorney General’s Office report.

Manuel Ellis
Manuel Ellis died in police custody in March of 2020. (Credit: GoFundMe)

A home doorbell security camera recorded Ellis telling officers, “Can’t breathe sir. Can’t breathe,” before one of the officers replied, “Shut the f— up, man.”

Tacoma Police Officer Armando Farinas is the cop who placed a spit hood over Ellis’ head that night. Officer Masiyh Ford held Ellis’ legs while other officers hog-tied him.

Both men will receive several weeks of training before returning to work, according to a Tuesday statement from the Tacoma Police Department.

“Interim Chief Mike Ake has notified Officers Armando Farinas and Masiyh Ford that they have been exonerated of any policy violations related to their involvement in the Manuel Ellis case,” the department said. “The facts in the case led Interim Chief Ake to his decision.”

Ellis’ death previously was ruled a homicide caused by lack of oxygen “due to physical restraint,’ with an enlarged heart and methamphetamine found in his bloodstream possibly serving as contributing factors to his death.

Vigil In Tacoma, WA After Report Released Local Man Died In Police Custody
People listen during a vigil for Manuel Ellis near the site of his death on June 3, 2020 in Tacoma, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark previously determined after performing an autopsy on Ellis that “the manner in which Mr. Ellis was hogtied and pressed faced down on the ground,” the night of his death “would inhibit regular breathing,” according to the state attorney general.

“He also observed that the inside cloth portion of the spit hood was coated with blood and mucus, inhibiting Ellis’s ability to breathe,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in his report.

But the Tacoma Police Department still said Farinas and Ford have been cleared of criminal and police policy violations related to Ellis’ killing.

“While the investigation did show that Officer Farinas placed the spit hood on Mr. Ellis, it was found the actions of Officer Farinas were reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances, ” the department said on Tuesday.

“The actions of Officer Ford were found to be reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances and not in violation of department policy,” the department added.

The state attorney general’s office previously charged Matthew Collins and Chris Burbank with second-degree murder. Officer Timothy Rankine was charged with felony manslaughter for placing both his knees and “all [his] weight” on Ellis’ back while Ellis was already handcuffed and pinned to the ground.

Some of the involved officers previously told investigators Ellis was the aggressor that night, but their statements were proven false by witness accounts and cell phone and security camera video of the incident, the AG’s office said.

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