Another Black Man Died in Police Custody After Crying Out ‘I Can’t Breathe.’ His Death Has Been Ruled a Homicide

People listen during a vigil for Manuel Ellis, a black man whose March death while in Tacoma Police custody was recently found to be a homicide, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiners Office, near the site of his death on June 3, 2020 in Tacoma, Washington.
People listen during a vigil for Manuel Ellis, a black man whose March death while in Tacoma Police custody was recently found to be a homicide, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiners Office, near the site of his death on June 3, 2020 in Tacoma, Washington.
Photo: David Ryder (Getty Images)

A medical examiner’s report revealed that a black man died of oxygen deprivation while being detained by police after exclaiming, “I can’t breathe”—and that man’s name is not George Floyd.

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The Seattle Times reports that 33-year-old Manuel Ellis died in Tacoma, Wash., on March 3 after he was arrested by four officers from the Tacoma Police Department. On Wednesday, Ellis’ death was ruled a homicide by the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office.

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Like Floyd, Ellis died while in handcuffs and he was restrained by four officers. Here’s what happened as reported by the Times:

At the time of his March 3 death, officials said, the 33-year-old appeared to be suffering from excited delirium, which often includes attempts at violence, unexpected strength and very high body temperature.

They said that might have explained why Ellis allegedly banged on a patrol car and attacked two officers trying to calm him down.

Although Ellis, an openly struggling addict, had drugs in his system when he died, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined Ellis died of respiratory arrest due to hypoxia due to physical restraint.

And here’s the officers’ account of what happened:

Police encountered Ellis on his walk home at 11:22 p.m.

They say he was harassing a woman at the intersection of 96th Street South and Ainsworth Avenue and pounding on her car window. He also tried to open the doors of occupied vehicles, police said.

When two officers in the area asked him what he was doing, Ellis allegedly told them he had warrants and wanted to talk to them.

Then he repeatedly struck their patrol car.

The two officers inside notified dispatch they needed priority backup then got out of the car.

“He picked up the officer by his vest and slam-dunked him on the ground,” Ed Troyer, spokesman of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the incident, told The News Tribune on Tuesday. “He never tried to run, he engaged with the officers and started a fight.”

There was a struggle before police got Ellis handcuffed on the ground.

The officers called the paramedics but within minutes of their arrival, Ellis stopped breathing and lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

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It’s unclear why it took three months for the examiner’s report to determine the cause of Ellis’ death to be released, but they’ve had the results since May 11, the Times reports.

The officers involved were placed on administrative leave after the incident but have since returned to work.

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According to the New York Times, Troyer said he doesn’t believe the officers used a chokehold or that any knees were placed on Ellis’ neck. He said the officers rolled him on his side as soon as he said he couldn’t breathe. Of course, Troyer noted that he couldn’t say anything for certain since the officers weren’t wearing body cameras.

Ellis’ family held a vigil for him in Tacoma on Wednesday night where hundreds gathered.

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The investigation into Ellis’ death is ongoing.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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DISCUSSION

renaissancenerd
RenaissanceNerd

I don’t get why the body cameras aren’t on all shift long. Personally I’d want one for my own protection if I was doing that kind of work. Police states use the argument that you shouldn’t be afraid of CCTV on the street if you aren’t doing anything wrong; same logic should apply to dashboard/body cams on cops.

If they actually didn’t apply any kind of chokehold/compression, rolled him over on his side and called the paramedics, those would all be the right things to do. Sure there is a lot more to the story/coroner investigation, but the finding of homicide is a bit out of whack with what they reported.