Murder charges filed against officers in Washington man’s death

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TACOMA, WA – JUNE 03: People hold signs 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. Protests and other events sparked by the death of George Floyd have continued in the Tacoma area after the Medical Examiner found that the cause of death in the Manuel Ellis case was caused by respiratory arrest due to hypoxia due to physical restraint. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

SEATTLE (AP) — The Washington state attorney general on Thursday filed murder charges against two police officers in the death of Manuel Ellis, a Black man who died after telling the Tacoma officers who were restraining him that he couldn’t breathe.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement he charged officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins with second-degree murder and Timothy Rankine with first-degree manslaughter. The charges were filed in Pierce County Superior Court.

Ellis, 33, died on March 3, 2020, in handcuffs from lack of oxygen caused by being restrained. The Pierce County medical examiner called his death a homicide.

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His final words — “I can’t breathe, sir!” — were captured by a home security camera. The medical examiner’s report also listed methamphetamine intoxication and heart disease as factors in his death.

Ellis’ death, just weeks before George Floyd’s death under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer triggered a nationwide reckoning on race and policing, made Ellis’ name synonymous with pleas for justice at protests in the Pacific Northwest.

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