CW: This article contains descriptions of death.
Opening statements have begun in the trial of three Seattle police officers charged in the death of 33-year-old Manuel “Manny” Ellis, KOMO News reports. Ellis was killed in March 2020, just a few months before the murder of George Floyd sparked a nationwide movement.
Tuesday’s opening statements began a day after two weeks of jury selection ended Monday, KIRO News reports.
The three officers facing trial are Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins and Timothy Rankine. Rankine is facing first-degree manslaughter charges in Ellis’ death. His fellow officers Burbank and Collins, who are both White, are facing second-degree murder charges.
Court documents say Collins placed Ellis in a neck restraint while Burbank fired his taser directly into the 33-year-old’s chest. When Rankine arrived he applied pressure to Ellis’ back, while the other officers “hogtied” Ellis. A Pierce County medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by asphyxiation.
During the opening statements, jurors heard Ellis’ last words before he died, KOMO News reports.
“I can’t breathe, sir. I can’t breathe, sir. I can’t breathe,” Washington Assistant Attorney General Kent Liu said, repeating Ellis’ final words for the jurors.
“We are here today because this should not have happened,” Liu later said. “Mr. Ellis did nothing wrong.”
Lawyers for the officers have hired people they claim can prove Ellis’ death was caused by his use of methamphetamine. Ellis’ loved ones have spoken out against the defense team’s attempt to smear Ellis’ name.
“From the beginning of this case, it was clear to me that the officers’ defense strategy would be to try and assassinate my brother’s character,” Monet Carter-Mixon, Ellis’ sister, said in a statement via email, according to KOMO News. “Let’s be clear, Manny is not on trial. The focus of this case needs to be on the three Tacoma police officers and the extreme police brutality that occurred on March 3, 2020, not defaming my brother’s character when he can’t defend himself.”
AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Please take advantage of a $30,000 matching grant challenge. An anonymous donor has offered to match dollar for dollar every tax-deductible donation made to Asian American Media Inc from November 1, 2023 until the end of the year. The money will be used to fund the addition of a new reporter and to produce content for limited English-speaking Asian immigrants. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.