'I've been praying': Manny's mom, family look for answers, change and time to grieve
When she learned that the police officers charged with killing her son were arrested, Marcia Carter-Patterson’s heart jumped.
“It feels good that they are in custody,” Carter-Patterson told KNKX Public Radio moments after she learned the news. “But we have a long way to go.”
Three Tacoma police officers pleaded not guilty to felony charges in connection with the death of Manuel Ellis. Ellis, a Black man, was killed in March 2020 while being restrained by Tacoma police. Home security footage captured Ellis telling officers “I can’t breathe, sir” before he died. His death was ruled a homicide by the Pierce County medical examiner.
More than a year later, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office announced the charges: second-degree murder for Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, who are white, and first-degree manslaughter for Timothy Rankine, who is Asian-American. They were booked into Pierce County Detention and Corrections Center on Thursday afternoon.
The union representing the officers says the charges are politically motivated, calling them a “witch hunt.” Meanwhile, Ellis' mother says she’s keeping the officers in her prayers.
“I’m not the angry woman that only wants to see them suffer,” she told KNKX. “I just hope that through this ordeal, through the murder of my son, that they come closer to Christ. That their lives will be changed, as Manny’s was, as mine was.”
The family had just finished speaking at a news conference when KNKX spoke to Carter-Patterson and other members of her family. They had spent more than an hour condemning the length of time it took for an investigation to be completed, and they turned the focus to what needs to happen in Washington state so no family will experience what they did over the past year.
Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed a dozen bills, in what he calls some of the most significant police reform legislation in the country. They included new requirements for officers to intervene if they see another officer using excessive force, and a ban on neck restraints like the one used on Ellis before he died.
Monét Carter-Mixon, Ellis’ sister, told KNKX that the reforms aren’t enough.
“There’s no realistic accountability,” she said, stressing that bills can easily be amended. She says the language is there, but the language doesn’t have teeth. “I feel like this is kind of like a show or a little parade because of what’s circulating in regards to my brother.”
What would be enough, she says: “The whole system needs to be reconstructed and changed, and Washington has the ability to do that.”
During Thursday’s news conference, Carter-Patterson repeated her son’s name many times in front of the cameras: Manuel Elijah Ellis. Her daughter said that was intentional.
“No one’s been saying it. I had people messaging me today saying they had never heard about my brother,” Carter-Mixon said. “That’s why she was saying his name so many times -- because she wants people to know about her son and about what happened to him.”
The family has yet to grieve, Carter-Mixon says.
“I don’t think any of us can actually relax. I don’t think the grieving is actually going to start because there’s still so much publicly that’s happening,” she said. “There’s probably going to be cameras in our faces. It’s hard to be able to really just sit down and process and think about things when it’s constantly being brought up in your face.”
She says there are times when the family wants to take time to themselves, but Carter-Mixon doesn’t know what that will look like moving forward. In the meantime, her mom will continue praying. She says she can’t hate her enemy when the Bible says to pray for that enemy.
“So all this time,” she said, “I’ve been praying.”