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Final episode of 'The Walk Home' podcast explores the idea of safety and what's next for Tacoma

Community members gathered in June for a celebration of life for Manuel Ellis, who was killed by Tacoma police in March. In this photo, one of the attendees hangs a flyer with Ellis’ image that says “Happy Father’s Day Manny.”
Parker Miles Blohm
Supporters of Manuel Ellis hang a poster with his photo during a celebration in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood on June 21, 2020.

For nearly four years, KNKX has been reporting on the death of Manuel 'Manny' Ellis since he was killed by Tacoma police officers in March 2020. This reporting covered Manny's life from the time he was born all the way through the conclusion of the historic trial of the officers' charged with his murder and manslaughter.

All of this reporting is captured in the award-winning and nationally recognized podcast The Walk Home, produced in partnership with The Seattle Times.

The podcast team recently published the final episode of the podcast titled "The Safest City in America," bringing the years-long project to a close.

KNKX Special Projects Reporter Mayowa Aina and KNKX Reporter Jared Brown sat down with All Things Considered host Emil Moffatt to talk about the final episode, the podcast, and what happens next.

Listen to their discussion above or read the transcript below.


Note: This transcript is provided for reference only and may contain typos. Please confirm accuracy before quoting.

KNKX All Things Considered host Emil Moffatt: The final episode of The Walk Home podcast is out now. Produced by KNKX in partnership with the Seattle Times, it covers the life and 2020 police killing of Manuel 'Manny' Ellis in Tacoma, as well as the historic trial of the three officers charged in Ellis' death.

I'm here now with reporters from the podcast to talk about the project, KNKX special projects reporter Mayowa Aina and KNKX reporter Jared Brown.

Hello, you two.

KNKX Special Projects Reporter Mayowa Aina: Hi Emil.

KNKX Reporter Jared Brown: Hey Emil.

Moffatt: It was December 21st of last year when the three officers accused in connection with Manny Ellis' death were acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges against them. Let's talk about the final episode of the podcast. Why was it so important to put a wrap on this chapter of the story?

Aina: It really feels like the city and the community have moved into a new phase of this story. And we were really thinking about, how does the community move forward? So on the final episode, we wanted to explore what it means to feel safe, what it means to be safe, and how different people in our community are trying to pursue that feeling of safety, particularly in Tacoma since Manny Ellis was killed four years ago.

Moffatt: And this podcast was just a massive undertaking, more than nine hours of audio. Is there anything that you left out that you think is important for listeners to hear?

Aina: One of the points that I wanted to talk about was this idea around dehumanization. And we talked with two researchers who connected the idea of how Manny was described during the encounter with the police officers, the language that they use to describe him and his death, the researchers connected that to racist anti-Black tropes that go back centuries in this country.

Specifically, there was this argument from the officers' defense teams, and from some people in the community, that Manny had killed himself. So we know that many use drugs and when he died, the officers' suggested that he died from something called "excited delirium," basically saying that man his body just gave out on him.

Justin Feldman studies police violence through a public health lens and looks specifically at deaths in police custody.

Justin Feldman (clip): "'This was a diseased Black body.' Once you add drug use on top of that, 'They brought it on themselves with their responsible behavior.' It's just classic biological racism."

Aina: Here Feldman is saying that the language that was used to describe Manny - his previous arrests, his drug addiction, that he was making animalistic noises, that he had an unlimited pain tolerance, the fact that he was hogtied, and that initial assertion of "excited delirium" - all of that is dehumanizing language specific to anti-Black racism.

He also says this language and these narratives and these theories are popular with law enforcement across the country. And that is part of what creates barriers to police reform.

Feldman (clip): "So rather than implicating police and their use of force, there's a whole set of explanations out there that say, 'No, the problem is not police, and it's not their use of force. The problem is located within the individual who died.'"

Aina: We also talked with a Seattle writer, professor and historian named Daudi Abe. And he designed a class for the state's police academy on the history of race and policing. And he was struck by the same idea.

Daudi Abe (clip): "There has to be an element of dehumanization in police training, too, because as a police officer, you have to be ready to shoot anyone, it could be anyone, at a moment's notice. And if you hesitate on doing so it can cost you your life. And when you have that dehumanization, you can see how it...somebody can get choked to death."

Aina: One of the things that Abe told us was that he saw the officers acquittal in Manny's case as the completion of Manny's dehumanization.

It's sort of an abstract idea that we ended up cutting from the episode, but that's definitely something that sticks with me still.

Moffatt: And Jared, what about you what sticks with you from your reporting?

Brown: I think a lot about how the conflict in Manny's story really boils down to a struggle between the powers that be, "the system," and the community, these people who have the system forced upon them. They're both fighting for control over who sets the narrative, the "official narrative." And in Manny's case, that started with his little sister, Monét Carter-Mixon, and her bullhorn, trying to figure out what happened with Manny and not simply taking law enforcement's word for it. And since then, we've watched how her focus has widened beyond her brother. She says it's not just about justice for Manny now. And she, and others who have been impacted by police violence, they're not giving up the mic yet, and they're keeping the pressure on.

So the morning before we publish the podcast episode, I talked to Monét and asked her about city leadership's desire to move past her brother's death. And she seemed really insulted by the idea that the city had fixed all its problems with policing.

Monét Carter-Mixon (clip): "That's like a white person's answer when you ask them about slavery. 'Well, I think we should just move forward.' No, actually, no. Because we still have... my mom is a product of segregation. My grandmother was a product of Jim Crow. Those are recent things that weren't that far or weren't that long ago, and are still impacting people in my community to this day. So there is no moving forward because there was no justice."

Brown: At the end of the day, the people who have been impacted by police violence, they have a pretty concrete agenda: They want to prevent people from dying at the hands of police. And they want officers to be held to a higher standard and to bring more humanity into what they're doing in the community.

Moffatt: While this is the final episode of The Walk Home podcast, this story is not over. What are you watching for next?

Brown: There are a handful of things. There's a question of whether the acquitted officers will have their credentials revoked in Washington, so they can't be officers at any department, not just Tacoma. The Ellis family still has an ongoing lawsuit against the city of Tacoma that will resolve in federal court at some point. And the biggest development, the federal justice department is now reviewing the state's investigation against the officers. So we're waiting to see what they find. And they could be looking at more officers than just the ones who are charged in the state's case.

Moffatt: And Mayowa, Tacoma is your home, it's been your home. What are some of the things you'll look for in the city to see whether things have actually changed?

Aina: The first thing that comes to mind is watching Jamika Scott, who's the newest elected member of the Tacoma City Council, and longtime community organizer and activist. She was part of bringing attention to Manny Ellis' death. And so I'll be curious to see how she uses this new seat on the city council to kind of push things forward from the inside. And I think there's really... there's kind of like two big factions in the community of folks who want to see a lot of police reform but also folks who are wanting to see more police officers and wanting to see the department do more on crime and kind of address this feeling of feeling unsafe. So I'll be curious to see how that conversation continues to come up in city council meetings and community forums and seeing whether or not the community kind of comes to consensus around that issue.

Moffatt: KNKX Special Projects Reporter Mayowa Aina and KNKX Reporter Jared Brown talking about their reporting on the 2020 police killing of Manny Ellis in Tacoma and historic trial of the three officers charged in Ellis' death. Thank you both.

Aina: Thanks, Emil.

Brown: Thanks, Emil

Moffatt: Mayowa and Jared host and report The Walk Home, the KNKX and Seattle Times podcast about the life and death of Manny Ellis. The final episode of the podcast is out now you can listen to it at or wherever you get your podcasts.

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
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
Emil Moffatt joined KNKX in October 2022 as All Things Considered host/reporter. He came to the Puget Sound area from Atlanta where he covered the state legislature, the 2021 World Series and most recently, business and technology as a reporter for WABE. Contact him at