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Trial for Tacoma officers charged with killing Manny Ellis starts this fall. Here's what to know

A colorful mural reads "Justice for Manny" and a Black man smiling.
Melissa Ponder
KNKX File Photo
A mural in Tacoma painted in August 2020 for what would have been Manny Ellis' 34th birthday.

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In 2021, for the first time, the Washington state Attorney General's Office criminally charged police officers for the unlawful use of deadly force.

Tacoma Police Officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins are charged with second-degree murder and Timothy Rankine is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the death of Manuel "Manny" Ellis in 2020. Now, more than three years after Ellis' death, the officers are set to stand trial in September.

Here's what you need to know:

What led up to Ellis' death?

On March 3, 2020, Ellis was walking home in Tacoma's South End around 11 p.m. with some powdered donuts and water that he bought from a nearby 7-Eleven when he encountered two Tacoma police officers. The officers said in their initial statements Ellis was disturbing vehicles near the intersection of 96th St. and Ainsworth Ave., before turning his aggression toward them. They engaged in a violent minutes-long struggle. The officers hogtied the 33-year-old Black man and placed a spit hood over his head. After Ellis told officers "I can't breathe" several times, Ellis went unconscious and died at the scene. The officers initially suggested Ellis died from "excited delirium."

Who investigated?

Ellis' sister, Monét Carter-Mixon, conducted her own informal investigation and uncovered witness videos that showed parts of the interaction between Ellis and the officers. Those findings combined with the Pierce County Medical Examiner'sruling that Ellis died of oxygen deprivation from police restraints, brought national attention and further investigation to the case.

Carter-Mixon's investigation is chronicled in the narrative podcast The Walk Home, produced by KNKX News and The Seattle Times.

There were three official investigations into what happened the night of March 3.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department was initially the independent agency investigating Ellis' death. In late June 2020, just before investigators were set to present the case to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office, the department disclosed one of its deputies had helped restrain Ellis.

The Washington State Patrol then took over the investigation at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee. WSP then referred its investigation to the Washington Attorney General's Office in November 2020.

What are the officers accused of?

After additional investigation, the Attorney General's Officecharged Collins and Burbank with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Rankine, who responded as backup, was charged with first-degree manslaughter. All three officers pleaded not guilty and were bailed out of jail by the owner of a local construction company. The officers contend Ellis attacked them.

Second-degree murder carries a sentence of about 10 to 18 years for someone with no criminal history. The standard range for first-degree manslaughter is about six to eight years. Both charges are felonies and a conviction would prohibit employment as a police officer.

New Tacoma Police Chief Avery Moore, who joinedthe department in 2022, said the internal investigations of Collins, Burbank and Rankine are on hold until after the trial. The city of Tacoma will have paid them more than $1 million combined since they were placed on paid leave in June 2020.

Were other officers involved?

Officers Masyih Ford and Armando Farinas were cleared of wrongdoing by an internal investigation in December 2021. Farinas told investigators he was the officer who put the spit hood on Ellis. Ford helped restrain Ellis.

When does the trial start?

Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 18 and the trial is projected to run through early December. KNKX reporters Mayowa Aina and Jared Brown will provide coverage from the courtroom for the duration.

Find more trial information and how to watch on the Pierce County court website.

Learn more about what happened to Manny Ellis, and how his death collided with the racial justice movement of 2020, leading to one the most high-profile trials in Pacific Northwest history in the KNKX and The Seattle Times' award-winning narrative podcast, The Walk Home.

Jared Brown is a Tacoma-based reporter for KNKX covering the intersections of policing, courts and power with a focus on accountability and solutions. He is currently a Poynter Media and Journalism Fellow. You can email him at
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