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Two years later, Tacoma police officers still awaiting trial for felonies in death of Manuel Ellis

The three officers charged in Manuel Ellis' death are, from left, Matthew Collins, Timothy Rankine, Christopher Burbank.
Tony Overman
The News Tribune via AP

This week marks two years since the state attorney general charged three Tacoma police officers with felonies in the killing of Manuel Ellis.

Ellis, who was Black, was walking home from a convenience store the night of March 3, 2020, when he was stopped by police. He died after being tased, choked, masked with a nylon hood and hogtied while repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe.

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Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, who are white, are charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in Ellis’ death. Timothy Rankine, who is Asian American, is also charged with first-degree manslaughter. All of them have pleaded not guilty.

A lot has happened since those charges were filed May 27, 2021: protests, court hearings, a partial settlement, and even new laws that started with calls for justice for Ellis.

But there’s also a lot that hasn’t happened. The officers are nearly three years into paid leave, which started a few months after Ellis was killed.

An internal investigation into their conduct and a civil lawsuit filed by Ellis’ family both have been put on hold. None of that will change until a trial happens.

That trial, which has been repeatedly delayed, is now scheduled for September.

In an interview with KNKX last month, Tacoma Police Chief Avery Moore reiterated that everyone affected by the case wants the same thing: closure.

The trial is expected to last at least two months. That means the earliest the community could see anything resembling closure is the end of this year.

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.