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Episode 6: 96th and Ainsworth

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A critical decision changes Manny's case, and a new story of his death emerges.

The 2020 police killing of Manuel "Manny" Ellis, a Black man in Tacoma, brought a reckoning to Washington State and has set up what promises to be one of the highest-profile trials in Pacific Northwest history.

The story unfolds in The Walk Home, a podcast byKNKX Public Radio andThe Seattle Times, with support fromNPR. It's sponsored, theGreater Tacoma Community Foundation and Group Health Foundation.

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Dive deeper into this story and our reporting:


Note: The Walk Home was produced as an audio series. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the series. This transcript is provided for reference only and may contain typos. Please confirm accuracy before quoting.

Episode 6: 96th and Ainsworth

Mayowa Aina: This podcast includes detailed descriptions of violence and death. Please take care while listening.

[Sound of musician playing “Happy Birthday”]

Kari Plog: It’s August 28th, 2020, the day Manny Ellis would have turned 34.

[Monét Carter-Mixon and others singing, “Happy Birthday”]

Kari Plog: Monet stands beneath a freshly painted mural of Manny’s face that just went up in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. His wide smile and the words “Justice for Manny” face the doors of his church…just a block away. His family has been waiting for months for any news about Manny’s case.

Monét Carter-Mixon: “Happy birthday, brother. I love you.”

[Sound of drums from silent protest]

Kari Plog: Fast-forward to February 28, 2021, almost a year since Manny died. Monet and her family march quietly through Tacoma with their supporters, wearing white, following a drummer.

Monét Carter-Mixon: “Technically the attorney general has had my brother’s case now since November. I don’t understand why it’s going to take any longer. It’s been a year.”

Judge, in courtroom recording: “Members of the jury, I will now read the verdicts as they will appear in the permanent records of the Fourth Judicial District.”

Kari Plog: Fast-forward some more, to April 20, 2021.

Judge, in courtroom recording: “State of Minnesota, plaintiff, vs. Derek Michael Chauvin, defendant.”

Kari Plog: Twenty-three million people around the country tune in to watch as a jury finds former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd.

Judge, in courtroom recording, reading verdict: “We the jury in the above entitled matter, as to count one, unintentional second-degree murder while committing a felony, find the defendant guilty. This verdict agreed to this 20th day of April, 2021…”

Kari Plog: In less than a year, Chauvin has been fired, charged, arrested, tried, and convicted. Manny’s case, meanwhile, drags on. Monet has grown tired of all the waiting. For more than a year, all she’s had are little snippets of an incomplete story. But, elsewhere, people with a lot more power than her are piecing together those fragments and uncovering new ones. They’re constructing a new story about Manny’s final moments alive. After all this time, all the waiting, everyone following the case is ready to finally know what actually happened. From KNKX Public Radio and The Seattle Times, this is The Walk Home. Episode 6: “96th and Ainsworth.” May 27, 2021.

Archival news clip: “A breaking news alert on King 5 News at noon, a historic decision in our state: Three Tacoma police officers are criminally charged for killing Manuel Ellis. Two are charged with murder, one with manslaughter more than a year after Ellis died.”

Archival news clip: “This is a historic decision because this is the first time in Washington’s history that an attorney general has filed criminal charges against law enforcement officers for the use of deadly force.”

Kari Plog: Three Tacoma police officers are charged with felonies for killing Manny Ellis. The first two officers who encountered Manny at 96th and Ainsworth – Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank – are charged with second-degree murder. There’s a split decision on the other two officers, who showed up later, as backup. Timothy Rankine is charged with first-degree manslaughter. His partner, Masyih Ford, isn’t charged with anything. If Burbank, Collins and Rankine are convicted, they could face up to life in prison.

Mayowa Aina: Police officers are rarely charged with crimes for using deadly force…anywhere across the U.S. Here in Washington, it almost never happens. Only three officers have been criminally charged for killing people on the job in the 40 years before Manny was killed. In one day, that number doubled. This is the first time ever that the state rather than local officials will prosecute police officers for using deadly force.

Kari Plog: We had been waiting a long time for this decision. When the charges went public, we quickly realized why it took so long. The level of detail was stunning. That incomplete picture of Manny’s death — the snippets of audio and video, the flashes of memories from the people around him that night — those, and a bunch of other details, needed to be collected and threaded together.

Mayowa Aina: It would be hard to find another legal document quite like the one the attorney general’s office released that day. There were a lot of people reviewing the state patrol’s findings and filling in all the gaps. They basically did a new investigation beyond what law enforcement did.

Kari Plog: State prosecutors for the attorney general plus a special prosecutor, retired judges, an expert on police use of force, forensic experts — they all pieced together an extremely detailed timeline of Manny’s last moments alive down to minutes, and even seconds.

Mayowa Aina: And their summary of the charges doesn’t just build a case against the officers. It tells a story. It’s a story that’s very different from the one law enforcement told right after Manny died. We wanted to ask the officers or their lawyers about these details, since they have contested the accusations. But none of them would talk to us.

Kari Plog: So, we want to be clear: this is what prosecutors say happened. They used synchronized video and audio, along with witness interviews, to compile 21 pages of charges.

Mayowa Aina: Here’s what those charges say. 11:11 p.m.

Kari Plog: Manny buys some raspberry filled powdered donuts and a bottle of water from 7-Eleven, where he’s a regular. He tells the clerks good night and walks out the door.

Mayowa Aina: 11:16.

Kari Plog: Officers Burbank and Collins are doing a quick traffic stop down the road about a mile or so.

Mayowa Aina: 11:20.

Kari Plog: Manny, walking on the sidewalk, and the officers, driving in their patrol car, are heading toward 96th and Ainsworth. This is when the officers say they saw Manny in the street messing with a car.

Matthew Collins, from interview with investigators “And he was at the passenger door working the handle…”

Kari Plog: But they couldn’t give a detailed description of that car to sheriff’s investigators.

Christopher “Shane” Burbank, from interview with investigators: “I don’t remember at all. I just remember he went directly to the front passenger door.”

Kari Plog: Prosecutors don’t seem to buy that story. They say none of the witnesses even saw Ellis in the intersection. Charges say audio and video evidence backs that up.

Mayowa Aina: 11:21 p.m.

Kari Plog: Manny walks up to the officers, who are stopped at the traffic light. They talk casually, like they know each other.

Mayowa Aina: About 10 or 15 seconds later.

Kari Plog: As Manny turns to walk away, officer Burbank strikes him with the passenger door, knocking him down.

Christopher “Shane” Burbank, in interview with investigators: “I used my door to actually door check him.”

Kari Plog: Two witnesses pull out their cellphones and start recording: Sara McDowell and Sam Cowden. Sara is the woman who stopped her car to record the video you’ve already heard, the one that later became national news.

Sarah McDowell, from video: “Stop. Oh my God, stop hitting him.”

Kari Plog: Sam is a pizza delivery driver. He stops his car on Ainsworth Avenue, with a clear view of Manny and the officers. They’re struggling on the ground straight ahead, the headlights from the police cruiser shining on them.

Mayowa Aina: 46 seconds after Burbank door checks Manny.

Kari Plog: Burbank lifts up Manny and slams him into the pavement, striking him with his fist. Collins is on top of Manny, punching him in the head. Manny screams after each punch.

Mayowa Aina: Ten seconds later.

Kari Plog: The pizza delivery driver’s video shows Collins putting Manny in a choke hold as Burbank aims a taser at him. Manny isn’t fighting back. He puts his hands up like he’s surrendering. The officers respond with force. Collins pulls back on his neck, rolling him into the pavement. Burbank fires taser probes into Manny’s chest. As Manny goes limp, Collins releases the choke hold and presses down on Manny’s head or neck.

Mayowa Aina: Fourteen seconds past 11:22 p.m.

Kari Plog: Burbank radios their location.

Christopher “Shane” Burbank, from recording of radio chatter: “96th and Ainsworth.”

Kari Plog: Officers Rankine and Ford are already on their way. Rankine has a bad feeling.

Timothy Rankine, from interview with investigators: “I was thinking the worst, that Officer Burbank and Officer Collins were most likely either dead or shot.”

Mayowa Aina: Twelve seconds later.

Kari Plog: Burbank tases Manny again. The officers keep applying pressure on him.

Mayowa Aina: Twenty-five seconds past 11:23 p.m., two minutes into this struggle.

Kari Plog: Manny cries out. It’s picked up on the doorbell camera, 112 feet away.

Manny Ellis, from doorbell recording: “I can’t breathe, sir. I can’t breathe.”

Mayowa Aina: Fifteen seconds later.

Kari Plog: Manny pleads with them again. This time, one of the officers responds. It sounds like one of them says “shut the fuck up.”

Mayowa Aina: Thirty-one seconds past 11:24 p.m.

Kari Plog: Officers Ford and Rankine arrive. Burbank is on Manny’s back. Collins is holding his legs. Then, Rankine applies all of his weight to Manny’s body. Manny tells them he can’t breathe again.

Timothy Rankine, in interview with investigators: “This is the first time I actually heard this subject even speak and the first thing he said to me was, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.’ But he said it in a very, not in a distressed voice, almost a very calm, normal voice. I remember telling the individual, I was like, ‘If you’re talking to me, you can breathe just fine.’”

Kari Plog: Manny says he can’t breathe at least four times in the first minute Rankine is there.

Mayowa Aina: Just after 11:25 p.m.

Kari Plog: Officers hogtie Manny, tying his hands and feet together behind his back. A Tacoma police sergeant at the scene clicks on his radio.

Manny Ellis, from recording or radio chatter: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Manny Ellis, from recording or radio chatter, slowed down: “I can’t breathe.”

Kari Plog: Prosecutors say those were Manny’s last known words. By then, Manny had said he couldn’t breathe at least seven times.

Manny Ellis, from recording or radio chatter: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Mayowa Aina: Twenty seconds later.

[Twenty-second pause]

Kari Plog: Paramedics are dispatched for the first time. After that, Manny gets quiet and stops moving. Officer Rankine searches Manny for weapons. A sergeant with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department tells a dispatcher that paramedics will need to restrain him in the ambulance.

From recording of radio chatter: “He’s going to need to be strapped down.”

Kari Plog: Then another Tacoma police officer – a new one we haven’t heard about yet – gets to the scene and helps restrain Manny further. He’s not named in these documents, but we learned later that his name is Armando Farinas. He’s the one who puts the spit mask on Manny’s head, the spit mask that the medical examiner later cites as possibly the most important factor in Manny’s death. Officers are trained not to use spit masks when someone is in distress. Soon, more and more officers show up at the scene: Tacoma police, Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies, even Washington State Patrol. Within 11 minutes of Burbank yelling their location into his radio, at least 20 law enforcement officers get there.Seattle Times investigative reporter Patrick Malone describes what the other officers see as they’re arriving, according to prosecutors.

Patrick Malone: “Ellis is in this position with spit mask on his head, shackles on his legs, handcuffs on his hands, and they're tied together behind his back. And that's how officers arrived to find him with Rankine on top of him.”

Kari Plog: Then, paramedics get there, including Nicholas Wilson with Tacoma Fire. He asks officers to remove Manny’s restraints.

Patrick Malone: “Well, according to charging documents, Rankine resisted and told medics he didn't want Ellis to fight officers. After causing this delay to Ellis getting help, Rankine ultimately relented and helped take off the hobbles.”

Kari Plog: Wilson checks Manny’s neck for a pulse. This is what he told investigators.

Nicholas Wilson, in interview with investigators: “The patient had a deteriorating respiratory drive. He did have a pulse but it was very weak and slow. It [sic] was very aware the patient needed aggressive airway management and potentially cardiopulmonary resuscitation efforts. We began aggressive treatment from there. He did not appear to be breathing, but there were agonal respirations. It was a deteriorating respiratory drive, not sustainable with life, so.” 

WSP Det. R. Schroeder: “So I guess more in layman’s terms, I’m not familiar with all the medical terms. Does it seem like he was having trouble breathing then?”

Nicholas Wilson: “He needed to be mechanically ventilated, so we needed to breathe for him.”

Kari Plog: When that doesn’t work, Wilson starts CPR, a last ditch effort to save Manny’s life. The crew takes turns doing chest compressions every two minutes. A neighbor records what’s happening from across the street through her window, with a cellphone. The video shows a crowd of officers hovering, talking to each other. The neighbor, holding her phone, faintly narrates what she’s seeing…

Aiyana White, in cellphone video: “There’s somebody in the middle of that doggie pile.”

Kari Plog: After 40 minutes of doing CPR with no response from Manny, paramedics contact a local hospital. A doctor confirms what Wilson already knows.

Nicholas Wilson, in interview with investigators: “It was agreed upon that heroic measures had been conducted and that resuscitation was not likely.”

[Sound of wind and rain from videos taken by investigators]

Kari Plog: Later, investigators record their own video, documenting the scene. It’s quiet now. Emergency lights flicker, reflecting on the wet asphalt. Yellow caution tape and the traffic lights above sway in the wind. The gusts sweep across a white sheet covering Manny’s body. He’s lying in the street, white sneakers facing the sky, his bright yellow sweatpants crumpled on the ground nearby, not far from the donuts and bottle of water he bought an hour earlier.


Kari Plog: Prosecutors with the state attorney general spent months laying out their case against those three Tacoma police officers. They say the timeline they built shows probable cause for multiple crimes committed against Manny. Officers Burbank and Collins are accused of illegally detaining and beating him. Officer Rankine is accused of continuing to use force after Manny was in medical distress. All of them are accused of failing to get him medical aid. Burbank, Collins and Rankine have all pleaded not guilty to the murder and manslaughter charges. They have refused to do any interviews since they talked to sheriff’s investigators back in March 2020. They didn’t talk to the state patrol or the attorney general’s office and they didn’t talk to us. So, the next time we could hear anything from them will be in court when this goes to trial early next year. As with anyone charged with a crime, these officers are innocent until proven guilty. The trial already promises to be historic and it’s really complicated. The jury’s decision will likely hinge on a few critical details, including differences between the two versions of what happened that night: the version the officers told, and the one the prosecutors pieced together. First, there’s that mystery car — the one Burbank and Collins say Manny was messing with, the reason they gave investigators for stopping him that night.”

Christopher “Shane” Burbank, in interview with investigators: “As soon as the vehicle stopped, the suspect, he immediately ran directly to the front passenger door of the vehicle and started to like kind of pull it open, like he was trying to enter the vehicle.”

Matthew Collins, in interview with investigators: “So at this point, I didn’t know what we were viewing. I didn’t know if this is a domestic violence thing. Maybe this guy got kicked out of a car. Maybe he’s trying to carjack it. I don’t know.”

Patrick Malone: “I think most of what I can say about this car is what we don't know about it. These officers couldn't even describe its color, its make, its model, any of the things that even the most inexperienced patrol officer instinctively takes notes of. It's not in any of the videos that have surfaced and barring someone coming forward to say it was their vehicle and being able to prove that they passed through 96th and Ainsworth that night, I don't know that we'll ever reconcile whether there was even a cause for these officers to contact Manuel Ellis on the night that they killed him.”

Kari Plog: Then, there’s a big discrepancy about who attacked first: Manny or the officers. What led up to the officers struggling with Manny in the street, that’s not in any of the videos. But witnesses say they never saw Manny acting like a threat. In fact, they said it looked like he never even defended himself.

Patrick Malone: “Every single non-police witness says the officers were physically in control of Ellis throughout what they observed. Did Ellis egg these officers on? Did he do something that compelled them to act this forcefully against him to take his life? And each of the eyewitnesses who wasn't a police officer lends a hand to the narrative that, no, this man was not the kind of threat that he was perceived to be.”

Kari Plog: Only three people know exactly what happened before that struggle started. One of them is dead. The other two, Burbank and Collins, won’t say anything more about what happened that night. They may never talk publicly about it again.

Patrick Malone: “Jurors will likely need to draw their own conclusions about the facts and make up their mind about what happened before the cameras started rolling. What I can say is that two of the eyewitnesses do describe what they saw in the moments before Burbank hit Ellis with the door. And all of them describe it as shocking that this development happened because there was nothing to indicate strife between these guys before that. And I think that that is one reason that there's power in their statements, is that collectively, these aren't people that knew each other. These aren't people who had three or four days to get together and straighten out their story the way the police did, yet they're perfectly consistent. But, you know. Human witnesses are imperfect. And that's why it's hard to get convictions sometimes and things. How much weight will be given by a jury to the things that they can't see on video?”

Patrick Malone: Then there’s the story from Officer Collins about Manny picking him up and throwing him.

Matthew Collins, in interview with investigators: “He turns to me, as soon as I get about to the front of the car, runs at me, and he grabs me by my vest — I’m trying to grab him — and he lifts me off my feet and throws me on my back in the middle of the street. I left my feet. And it was about at this moment I knew something was up. This guy had superhuman strength.”

Kari Plog: His own partner, Burbank, doesn’t describe that happening. Instead, Burbank told investigators he hit Manny with the door of his vehicle to stop Manny from getting to Collins.

Christopher “Shane” Burbank, in interview with investigators: “As soon as I realized that he had focused on Officer Collins and was probably about to attack him or start fighting him, I used my door to actually door check him and hit him with the door to draw his attention away from Officer Collins and kind of divert him away from that.”

Kari Plog: Tacoma Police Department didn’t have body cameras back then, so what officers and witnesses say happened, that’s all we have to go on.

Patrick Malone: “At no point did anybody but Collins say that he was grabbed and he was thrown. Nobody else saw that. No one. Not Burbank, who was mere feet away with his attention, trained on Ellis and Collins. Not a single eyewitness, not any of the three audio and video recordings that have surfaced. And that is highly relevant because that’s where Tacoma Police Department policy comes into play. If Ellis did what Collins says he did, it would greatly improve the chances that there would be a finding that Collins and the others were justified in killing Ellis.”

Kari Plog: And then there's the question of that autopsy report, the official record about what actually caused Manny’s death. Dr. Thomas Clark, the medical examiner at the time, ruled it a homicide – saying Manny suffocated because of restraint by police. But like any other death investigation, he considered other theories, too, including Manny’s health and his history of drug use.

Patrick Malone: “The presence of methamphetamine in Manuel Ellis’ system is definitely going to be a focal point of this trial. It provides a kind of alternative explanation for why he died that every defense lawyer hopes to capitalize on and create reasonable doubt with the jury.”

Kari Plog: Manny had a potentially fatal level of meth in his system when he died. He also had a heart condition.

Manny Ellis, from recording of hearing: “I have a heart condition called pericarditis and with this heart condition I’m prone to getting walking pneumonia.

Kari Plog: Dr. Clark wrote that both of these things contributed to Manny’s death. But they probably weren’t the main cause. He wrote that if Manny overdosed on meth, he likely would have had an abnormal heart rhythm and died suddenly. Instead, Manny died slowly. Clark concluded that was from a loss of oxygen. He later told investigators that the spit mask wasn’t “easily breathable,” according to records. He said mucus lined the inside of the mesh, effectively sealing it.

Patrick Malone: “How deep are you going to go with this investigation? If you stop at the point where it's like, ‘Sufficient meth,” there might have been medical examiners that were satisfied with that. But he took the added step, Clark did, of examining the heart closely for the type of injury you can expect to find an overdose death. And in the absence of that, it really, from his perspective, solidified the homicide finding.”

Kari Plog: And then there’s Clark’s credibility. Remember all those complaints against him – when his staff complained about how he ran a dysfunctional workplace?

Archival news clip: “We have been following a growing list of complaints involving the Pierce County medical examiner.”

Archival news clip: “For months there’s been turmoil inside that office.”

Kari Plog: Well, it landed Clark on Pierce County’s list of “recurring witnesses with potential impeachment information." That’s a long, lawyery way of saying local prosecutors have flagged Clark as someone who could be untrustworthy in court. Clark says the complaints against him were orchestrated by a disgruntled staffer and he’s been fighting to get off this so-called “Brady list.” But if nothing changes before the trial starts, the state’s star medical expert — and his ruling that Manny’s death was a homicide — will be under fire.

Patrick Malone: “It's highly likely that the defense expert witnesses will be brought in to try to convince the jury that Dr. Clark was mistaken and that Manny Ellis actually died of a drug overdose.”

Kari Plog: When the Washington State Patrol questioned Clark again about his report, he said he had no regrets. He stands by the findings. There is a caveat, though. Right in his report, Clark wrote that another expert could look at the same facts in Manny’s case and come to a different conclusion: that meth was the primary cause of his death. One theory Clark stands firmly against, though, is the idea that Manny died from excited delirium. That was the first story officers told that night, the one that made it into the newspaper, before any investigation even happened.

Monet Carter-Mixon, reading newspaper story: “Excited delirium often includes attempts at violence, unexpected strength, and very high body temperature.”

Kari Plog: Clark says “excited delirium” is a term mostly used by prosecutors and police, diagnosed by doctors. Basically, Clark doesn’t believe “excited delirium” exists. Credibility, who we are conditioned to trust — that’s what this case is all about.

Patrick Malone: “This is far from your average murder trial. Jurors will have to come to it with their own perceptions and biases, and one that’s been instilled by society and the courts for a very long time is that police have some magical truth-telling ability. Typically all the police have to do is say something happened in a particular way and for all intents and purposes, including matters of criminal justice, the story is over. Typically all the police have to do is say something happened in a particular way and for all intents and purposes, including matters of criminal justice, the story is over. These particular jurors will need to reconcile that long-held societal norm with the facts of this case, many of which boil down to witnesses and videos that call into question the officers’ honesty about what happened. We're not accustomed to seeing the police painted as the liars, the criminals, the people who are trying to cover up. The attorney general essentially said these lay witnesses and their statements have been consistent where the officers have not, and that's a huge departure from the status quo in Washington state.”

Kari Plog: The story of what happened to Manny, there’s been a power struggle over who controls it. Manny died in a world where society gave police more power to decide what was true. People didn’t pay much attention to cases like these. Cops investigated each other. Reporters mostly took them at their word. And everyone moved on. That changed three months after Manny’s death, when George Floyd was murdered. The attorney general’s office picked up the case in that new world, tested the officers’ story and came up with an entirely different one. The trial is going to revolve around the details of this case. But it has the potential to be something more: a test of which of those worlds has prevailed, which one we’re living in today. As of this recording, in October 2022, the officers are still employed, still on leave, and collecting their paychecks. The Tacoma Police Department is investigating whether they will be fired for violating any policies. Two of the other officers who were not charged, Ford and Farinas — the one who put the spit mask on Manny’s head — both of them are back at work. The day those officers were charged, I was with Manny’s family. They had just finished talking to a bunch of reporters and TV cameras, like they have so many times before. As I talked with his mom, Marcia, she got word that the officers had been arrested.

[Sound of chatter from after press conference]

Marcia Carter-Patterson: “Oh, wow. OK, so that my heart just jumped. It feels good to know that they are in custody, but we have a long ways to go before we're going to get justice for my son. This is just the beginning.”

Audio from courtroom recording: “All rise. Superior court is now in session. Judge Michael E. Schwartz presiding.”

Kari Plog: The next day, one by one, Burbank, Collins, and Rankine appear in court remotely from a jail holding cell. They’re wearing orange jumpsuits, their hands cuffed to shackles wrapped around their waists. Special Prosecutor Patty Eakes stands in front of a judge and reads the state’s charges into the record.

Patty Eakes, in courtroom recording: “We’re here for an arraignment of Mr. Burbank, who’s charged in two counts. Count one he’s charged with murder in the second degree, felony murder.”

Patty Eakes, in courtroom recording: “We’re here for the arraignment of Mr. Collins, who’s charged in count one with murder in the second degree, felony murder.”

Patty Eakes, in courtroom recording: “We’re here for the arraignment of Mr. Rankine on the charge of one county of manslaughter in the first degree.”

Kari Plog: Eakes is known around here as the lawyer who helped get a confession from the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, the second most prolific serial killer in U.S. history. Now, the state is tasking her with convincing a jury that three police officers needlessly caused a Black man’s death…at a time when the whole world is watching.

Judge Michael E. Schwartz, in courtroom recording: “The court is going to accept pleas of not guilty on behalf of…”

Kari Plog: Attorneys for Burbank, Collins, and Rankine enter not guilty pleas on their behalf. The judge sets their bail at $100,000 each, much lower than the million that prosecutors requested. Families for the officers and Manny’s family watch the hearings separately, from two different courtrooms. Two rooms, two very different stories of what happened on March 3, 2020. On the next episode of The Walk Home:

Kari Plog: “And so why did you decide to bail them out?”
Josh Harris: “I saw two investigations done. How many investigations are we going to have until someone's agendas met and they're happy?”

Kari Plog: The charges expose a deep divide within Pierce County.

Nate Bowling: “The relationship between the Black community in particular and the city of Tacoma and law enforcement, has been damaged by this.”

 Kari Plog: And residents struggle to agree on what accountability looks like.

Jamika Scott: “When you’re a city council member, when you’re the mayor, what reason do you have to not speak up for somebody like Manny Ellis?”

Kari Plog: The Walk Home is a production of KNKX Public Radio and The Seattle Times. It’s reported, written, and produced by me, Kari Plog; Mayowa Aina; Will James; and Seattle Times senior investigative reporter Patrick Malone. Our editor is Tiara Darnell. Our executive producers are Florangela Davila and Jonathan Martin. Bethany Denton is our mix engineer. Music comes from Tacoma artists Will Jordan, Marcel E.C. Augustin; and Quincy “Q Dot” Henry. Our cover art is by Rotator Creative. Additional audio comes from The Seattle Times videography team. Research by Miyoko Wolf. Our website is by Parker Miles Blohm. Cara Kuhlman is our online managing editor. Special thanks to the Ellis family for sharing their story.

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.
Mayowa Aina covers cost-of-living and affordability issues in Western Washington. She focuses on how people do (or don't) make ends meet, impacts on residents' earning potential and proposed solutions for supporting people living at the margins of our community. Get in touch with her by emailing
Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.
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