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Washington Police Officers Cleared In Manuel Ellis Death To Receive $500,000 Each

Washington state police officers, previously acquitted of criminal charges in the 2020 death of Manuel Ellis, will each receive $500,000 to leave the Tacoma Police Department.

Three Washington state police officers acquitted of criminal charges in the 2020 death of Manuel Ellis, a Black man who was shocked, beaten, and restrained, will each receive $500,000 to leave the Tacoma Police Department, according to documents released on Jan. 18.

The officers, Timothy Rankine, Matthew Collins, and Christopher Burbank, were cleared by a jury in December following a trial held over two months. Rankine faced manslaughter charges, while Collins and Burbank faced charges of manslaughter and second-degree murder.

The voluntary separation agreements were released by the city, coinciding with Police Chief Avery Moore’s announcement that none of the officers violated the use-of-force policy in effect on March 3, 2020, the day of Ellis’ death. Collins was found to have violated a policy concerning courtesy.

City Manager Elizabeth Pauli said the agreements support a responsible and constructive path forward for the community and the Tacoma Police Department.

Matthew Ericksen, an attorney for Ellis’ family, criticized the agreements, calling it “perverse” and asserting that the officers were “effectively being rewarded” for Manuel Ellis’ death. He highlighted that the officers had already been paid around $1.5 million while on leave for nearly four years.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle announced last week that it is reviewing the case, and the Justice Department can bring prosecutions for federal civil rights violations. The scope of the review was not disclosed.

Manuel Ellis, 33, died in 2020 after an encounter with the officers while walking home in Tacoma. The officers claimed he became aggressive, but witnesses and surveillance footage contradicted their accounts. Ellis, already handcuffed and facedown, repeatedly stated he couldn’t breathe. His death became a focal point for racial justice demonstrations in the Pacific Northwest.

The trial marked the first under a five-year-old state law aimed at facilitating the prosecution of police accused of wrongfully using deadly force. The Ellis family settled a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Pierce County, which includes Tacoma, for $4 million last year.