I wish I was surprised every time a story came out about a Black man who said, “I can’t breathe” as their life was leaving their body. But unfortunately, I’m not.
On Monday, the trial of three Washington police officers who were allegedly involved in the death of Manuel “Manny” Ellis in 2020 began. It’s the first time the Washington attorney general has charged officers with unlawfully using deadly force, according to USA Today. Specifically, officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins were charged with second-degree murder, while Officer Timothy Rankine was charged with first-degree manslaughter in the case.
So what happened to 33-year-old Manny on the night of March 3, 2020?
A probable cause statement says that as he was walking home from a 7-Eleven, he was stopped by Officer Collins and Burbank in their police car. When Manny started to walk away, both of the officers got out of the car and charged at him. Allegedly, both of the officers attacked Manny by slamming him into the pavement and hitting him repeatedly. Then, as Officer Collins put him in a neck restraint, Officer Burbank fired his taser. A camera coming from the doorbell of a nearby home allegedly heard Manny telling the officers he couldn’t and in response, one of the officers said, “Shut the fuck up, man.”
Other witnesses were able to record the incident on their cell phones. The video is below:
Officer Rankine, the third officer charged, arrived later to provide backup for Collins and Burbank. He’s accused of placing a knee on Ellis’ neck and lower back, despite Manny repeatedly telling the officers he couldn’t breathe. The officers then wrapped a hobble around Manny’s legs and placed a spit-hood over his head. Later that night, he was pronounced dead.
Despite what video evidence shows and the accounts of witnesses who saw the incident unfold, the officers are claiming that Manny attacked the patrol car. This incident occurred nearly two months before the death of George Floyd. So while the protests that occurred that summer were a call to justice for Floyd and his family, it was also meant to remember the hundreds of Black people you don’t hear about on the news, who are allegedly killed by police.