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Manuel Ellis: Washington medical examiner rules man's death in police custody a homicide

Ellis yelled out 'I can't breathe' before his death
Posted at 8:54 AM, Jun 04, 2020

A medical examiner in Washington has classified the death of a black man who died in police custody a homicide, the Tacoma News Tribune reports.

On Thursday, the medical examiner in Pierce County, Washington, determined that Manuel Ellis was killed when physical restraint caused him to stop breathing.

The medical examiner also said that heart disease and methamphetamine in Ellis' system contributed to his death.

Ellis' death holds many similarities to the death of George Floyd, whose death has sparked days of anti-police brutality protests in dozens of cities across the country. Both men reportedly cried out, "I can't breathe," before they died.

According to The New York Times, Ellis was arrested on March 3. Police were called to the scene after they were told a suspect was harassing a woman.

When officers confronted Ellis, they found him banging on car windshields in the area. CBS News reports that Ellis also banged on a police patrol car.

Police say Ellis tackled an officer that confronted him. Other officers on the scene then grabbed Ellis and handcuffed him.

Police told The New York Times that they did not put a knee on Ellis or use a chokehold on him. The department also says officers rolled Ellis on his side when he yelled out that he couldn't breathe.

Officers were not wearing body cameras at the time of the arrest.

CBS News reports that officials called EMTs shortly after encountering Ellis. Shortly after they arrived, Ellis was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to CBS News, Officers Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins, Masyih Ford and Timothy Rankine were initially placed on administrative leave following the incident. All have since returned to duty.

The News Tribune reported around the time of Ellis' death that officials believed Ellis was suffering from excited delirium , "which often includes attempts at violence, unexpected strength and very high body temperature." The newspaper also reports that Ellis had been previously arrested in September after allegedly punching several workers at a fast food restaurant, stripping off his clothes and running down a local street.