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Charges are 'a blessing,' but work is far from over, says Manuel Ellis' family

Family members of Manuel Ellis recalled the 33-year-old man as a brother, a son and an uncle at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Tacoma. They spoke about missing him at their family dinner table for more than a year. 

"At the birthdays for Manuel Ellis' children, they have missed their father," attorney James Bible said. "He is missing when his sister Monet needs somebody to help her pick up her children from school or from the Boys & Girls Club or to hold them when they have a skinned knee or to just be present as a loving force in their lives."

But Ellis’ mother, Marcia Carter-Patterson, said her son was called by God for a higher purpose.

"God chose him. You know why he chose him? Because he wanted to expose the corruption that is in our city council, this whole state. The criminal system needs to be made over," Carter-Patterson said.

She made it a point to repeat her son's name throughout her remarks: "This is about Manuel Elijah Ellis. This is his work."

James Bible, the attorney for the Ellis family, addresses the crowd Thursday at a news conference.
Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX
James Bible, attorney for the Ellis family

Bible, the Ellis family's attorney, condemned the early narrative presented by Tacoma police.

"The narrative was Manuel was dangerous to the officers. Then that narrative was that he had excited delirium. The narrative was that those officers were in a struggle for their life," Bible said. "It wasn't until videos started to come forward that showed a different story. It wasn't the 12 witnesses started to come forward that showed that showed a different story. But the reality is the Pierce County Sheriff's Office had done such damage to a legitimate investigation in this case that people had to start over repeatedly." 

Bible drew a comparison between Ellis’ case and the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But, he said, Tacoma isn't like Minnesota because officers there spoke up about what happened to Floyd.

"Law enforcement in this town, in this county, they rely on people not having cameras," he said.

Bible said it wasn’t until Ellis’ family demanded accountability that the state finally intervened. Both he and Carter-Patterson credit Ellis' sister, Monet Carter-Mixon, for getting Gov. Jay Inslee's attention and demanding a state investigation. 

Carter-Mixon called the charges against three Tacoma officers "a blessing," but it was not a victory for her.  

"It's hard for me to be happy. It's hard for me to want to celebrate because there's so many things that are still currently being overlooked," she said. "There's so much work that needs to be done."

Ellis' older brother, Matthew, echoed that statement.

"This fight is far from over," he said, "We're going to keep fighting. Our brother's name will live forever, especially in Washington state -- and around the world."

Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.