TACOMA — March 3 marks one year since Tacoma resident Manual Ellis died while in the custody of Tacoma police officers, and his family and supporters are not letting it pass without a public march and call for justice.
That was the message delivered by their attorney, church leaders, Tacoma’s mayor and community activists at a Thursday afternoon press conference.
“Manuel Ellis died in the hands of Tacoma police officers and foretold his imminent death with the same words spoken by George Floyd and before him, Eric Garner, and so many other nameless persons that we don’t know who said, ‘I can’t breathe,'” said the Rev. Leslie Braxton, pastor of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship.
The news conference at Shiloh Baptist Church on Tacoma’s Hilltop was called after the Washington State Attorney General’s Office said earlier this week that a decision about whether Tacoma police officers will face criminal charges for Ellis’s death is expected by April.
“We are in perpetual state of waiting,” Braxton said.
The State Patrol turned over its 2,169-page investigation in November.
Ellis’ death was ruled a homicide, with methamphetamine and heart disease listed as contributing factors.
All five Tacoma officers involved are on paid administrative leave until the Attorney General’s Office decides whether their actions were justified.
Braxton and other speakers all said they want justice for Ellis.
“Justice will make it clear that Manuel Ellis’ life mattered, not just to the family, but to the entire community,” he said. “Black Lives Matter.”
Attorney James Bible called Ellis’ death a lynching.
“We find ourselves in a place where we’re committed to continuing to demand that prosecution actually occur,” Bible said.
Ellis’ sister, Monet Carter-Mixon, called her brother respectful and a good man. She kept her statement short.
“I’m really tired of talking,” she said. “I really wish that the Attorney General will just make a decision.”
She then introduced a video of Ellis playing drums at a church choir rehearsal.
Jamika Scott of the Tacoma Action Collective called for charges to be filed against the involved officers. She also demanded that Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer be removed from office. Bible echoed those demands.
Officers who restrained Ellis are Christopher Burbank, 34; Matthew Collins, 37; Masyih Ford, 28; Timothy Rankine, 31; and Armando Farinas, 26. A Pierce County sheriff’s employee, Lt. Gary Sanders, also held Ellis’ leg as he was hobbled.
Tacoma mayor Victoria Woodards said she stood in solidarity with those present Thursday.
“This family has been waiting too long,” Woodards said. “First, at the hands of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and now at the state level,” Woodards said. “This family can’t move forward until we have justice. This family can’t even begin to grieve until they know what happened that tragic night.”
A silent march for Ellis will be held Sunday, Braxton announced. The event begins at 4 p.m. at South 23rd Street and MLK Jr. Way and will march to People’s Park. Organizers are asking marchers to dress in white clothing.