A jury on Thursday found three Tacoma, Washington, police officers on trial for the death of Manuel "Manny" Ellis not guilty on murder and manslaughter charges.
Ellis died while in Tacoma police custody after he was allegedly beaten, shocked and hogtied face down on a sidewalk in March 2020.
The Pierce County medical examiner ruled Ellis’ death a homicide caused by oxygen deprivation, but lawyers for the officers said a high level of methamphetamine in Ellis’ system and a heart irregularity were factors in his death.
Tacoma Police Officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, who were first on the scene, were charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.
Officer Timothy Rankine, who was a part of the second unit on scene, was charged with first-degree manslaughter.
A doorbell surveillance camera recorded parts of the incident which showed Ellis with his hands up in the air in a surrender position as Burbank shot a Taser at Ellis’ chest and Collins wrapped an arm around his neck from behind.
The video also caught Ellis addressing the officers as "sir" as he told them repeatedly he couldn't breathe.
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards called for the officers to be fired in June 2020.
"The officers who committed this crime should be fired and prosecuted to the full extent of the law," Mayor Victoria Woodards said in a statement aired live on Tacoma TV and Facebook. "I am demanding tonight that the Pierce County Sheriff review and confirm every action taken by each officer."
On Wednesday, the jury in the trial told the judge they could not reach a unanimous decision, which could have led to a mistrial.
After hearing this, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff sent the jury back and told them to keep trying to reach a verdict.
Woodards spoke in a press conference after the verdict sending her condolences to the Ellis family and acknowledging what feelings may have come from the jury's decision.
"I want to acknowledge the anger, the distrust, the doubt, the fear, the hurt, and the exhaustion, that we as black people have experienced as a result of the history of policing in this country," Woodards emotionally expressed.
She went on to challenge the community to not stay silent and express their feelings.
"I want to be clear that this is not only your right, but it's also your duty to use your voice," Woodard said. "In these difficult moments, I am heartened by Tacoma's long-standing practice of showing up actively and peacefully, and I call on all who want to speak out, to do so in a way that reflects Tacoma's values."
The city of Tacoma released a statement acknowledging the pain the death of Ellis has meant for the community.
"The past nearly four years have been filled with wide-spread anger, mistrust, and apprehension and have severely divided the people of this city. Even though this criminal process has concluded, Tacoma’s elected and city leaders understand there are many questions about where we all go from here, as a city, as a community, and as a police department," the city wrote.
The city added that although the criminal trial ultimately resulted in not guilty verdicts, TPD is committed to finalizing its own investigation for administrative completeness regarding use of force and courtesy violations and is expecting to finish its internal investigation within the next 24 hours.
Within ten days of the jury announcing its verdict, the city said Tacoma Police Chief Avery Moore would make his decision on potential discipline, up to and including termination.
The Tacoma Police Department also released its own statement, echoing the city's response, and added that they will continue their commitment to creating a just and transparent model of public safety that builds trust among TPD employees and all community members.