Family Of Manuel Ellis Reaches $4 Million Settlement In His Wrongful Death While in Police Custody

Family Of Manuel Ellis Reaches $4 Million Settlement In His Wrongful Death While in Police Custody

Pierce County, Washington, has reached a proposed settlement of $4 million with the family of Manuel Ellis, a Black man who died in police custody in March 2020.

According to CNN, the Pierce County Council is set to vote on approving the settlement.

“This proposed settlement will bring the county’s involvement with this lawsuit to a close,” Pierce County  Attorney’s Office spokesperson Adam Faber said. “As always, litigation settlements are made with risk management principles in mind. We recognize that the family and friends of Manuel Ellis are grieving, and we hope this settlement will give them some measure of closure.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, named six defendants, including the City of Tacoma, Pierce County, six Tacoma police officers—three of whom are still facing criminal charges—and two Pierce County sheriff’s deputies.

As part of the settlement, the claims against the county and its deputies will be dropped, but the lawsuit will proceed against the others. Matthew Erickson, one of the attorneys for Ellis’ mother and sister, said the family is happy with the settlement after a two-year fight for justice.

“We are happy to have reached this agreement with the county. Nothing about the last two years has been easy for the Ellis family,” Erickson said in a statement, “but at the end of the day I commend Pierce County for making the deliberate decision to seek a compromise rather than litigating this lawsuit to the nth degree.”
Ellis died the night of March 3, 2020. He went to a 7-Eleven to get snacks when he was stopped by two Tacoma police officers, according to the family’s lawsuit. Police eventually attempted to arrest Ellis for “trying to open car doors of occupied vehicles” and Ellis was restrained after a physical altercation, the Tacoma police said.
According to the Pierce County medical examiner, Ellis’ cause of death was respiratory arrest due to hypoxia, where the body is deprived of oxygen, caused by physical restraint. The same words were repeated two months later when former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin held his knee against George Floyd‘s neck for almost nine minutes, sparking the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement.
Three Tacoma police officers have been criminally charged for Ellis’ death. Officer Timothy Rankine was charged with first-degree murder while Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins were charged with second-degree murder, according to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. All three men pleaded not guilty and were released on $100,000 bail last May.