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Former Tacoma officer acquitted in Manny Ellis' death resigns from new deputy job

Christopher “Shane” Burbank speaks with an attorney and codefendants during the pre-trail motion in the trial of Tacoma Police Officers Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins and Timothy Rankine in the killing of Manny Ellis at Pierce County Superior Court Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, Tacoma, Wash.
Brian Hayes
Pool Photo - The News Tribune
Christopher “Shane” Burbank speaks with an attorney and codefendants during the pre-trail motion in the trial of Tacoma Police Officers Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins and Timothy Rankine in the killing of Manny Ellis at Pierce County Superior Court Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, Tacoma, Wash. The officers were acquitted of all charges in December 2023.
Updated: April 3, 2024 at 3:31 PM PDT
In a letter posted on social media Wednesday, the Thurston County Sheriff's Office said it has accepted a resignation from deputy Christopher "Shane" Burbank.

Burbank is one of the former Tacoma police officers charged, but not found guilty in the 2020 killing of Manuel Ellis. On Monday, the sheriff's office announced it had hired Burbank as a patrol deputy.

In the letter, Sheriff Derek Sanders said he "entirely misjudged community perception on the investigation and jury process that Deputy Burbank completed." He also said death threats that were made to Burbank’s family because of his hiring played a role in the decision.

Original story continues below.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Department announced that it has hired former Tacoma officer Christopher "Shane" Burbank as a Lateral Patrol Deputy, via a social media post Monday. The post said Burbank “will provide immediate relief in our patrol division.”

“I was appalled,” said Leslie Cushman, a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability. “This sheriff didn’t have to hire Christopher Burbank. He could have understood the risk he was taking by hiring a man who was known to be violent.”

Burbank, and his former partner Matthew Collins, were charged with murder and manslaughter in the 2020 killing of Manuel “Manny” Ellis. Their former colleague Timothy Rankine was charged with manslaughter in Ellis’ death.

Following a high-profile weeks-long criminal trial, the officers were found not guilty of all charges in December 2023.

Ellis was walking home from a convenience store in his Tacoma neighborhood at night in March 2020, when he encountered the officers. The officers punched, tased, sat on, hogtied, and placed a spit hood on Ellis, ultimately killing him, after they say Ellis punched their patrol car window.

In January, the officers were cleared by the Tacoma Police Department of all wrongdoing, except for Collins’ who received a courtesy violation for telling Ellis to “Shut the f— up, man,” after Ellis repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe during the interaction. The officers voluntarily resigned from the department and each received a $500,000 payout.

Burbank, who was the only officer not to testify in his own defense during the trial, had said, through lawyers, that he was unlikely to return to law enforcement after what happened with Ellis.

State Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, who represents Tacoma, said the first text she received Tuesday morning was about Burbank’s hiring. She said it initially shocked her, and she personally contacted the sheriff’s office to confirm the hiring.

“Then it started to devolve into fear and panic,” Trudeau said. “Opening up social media, the confusion and fear [from the public] was pretty palpable."

“I don’t think this is a good decision,” said state Rep. Sharlett Mena. “We’ve worked really hard in the legislature to provide resources for better law enforcement training, to provide resources for better law enforcement hiring, to rebuild trust with the community … this is taking us in the completely wrong direction.”

In an emailed statement, the Thurston County Sheriff's Office said it conducted a two-month-long background investigation into Burbank that he "successfully passed."

Trudeau and Mena have worked closely together and with families impacted by police violence, including Ellis’ sister Monét Carter-Mixon, on legislation such as the statewide ban on hog-tying.

In response to this hiring, Mena and Trudeau said they have reached out to the other Pierce and Thurston County legislators to discuss this issue.

Washington’s police training commission is currently reviewing Burbank’s, as well as Collins’ and Rankine's, officer certification. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating Ellis’ death.

In the meantime, Trudeau said Burbanks’ hiring is an issue of public perception.

“They didn’t go to jail, because they were not convicted,” Trudeau said. “That does not mean the public perception is that they should continue to be in the same profession and that they are trusted to carry out actions that are actually going to keep community members safe.”

Trudeau also said she’s thinking of Carter-Mixon in response to this decision. In her testimony during the officers’ trial, Carter-Mixon mentioned moving out of Pierce to Thurston County out of fear for herself and her family.

Cushman said the decision to hire Burbank risked the reputation of the sheriff’s office and represented a risk to Thurston County residents.

“What I worry about, if this is acceptable and if the background check turned up no problems, then we have a bigger problem than we thought,” Cushman said. “We have some accountability issues and the system fails people, but if elected leadership at the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office thinks this is okay, we are in bad shape.”

Read the entire statement from the Thurston County Sheriff's Office below:

“Yesterday, TCSO hired Deputy Burbank as a Lateral Patrol Deputy from Tacoma PD. Deputy Burbank underwent a comprehensive background investigation, including a polygraph examination concerning his law enforcement tenure, all of which he successfully passed. Our nearly two-month-long investigation concluded that Deputy Burbank was acquitted by a jury of his peers, and Tacoma PD found no policy violations on his part.

While acknowledging the distressing nature of the events in Tacoma four years ago, we want to emphasize that Deputy Burbank has been cleared of any wrongdoing both by Tacoma PD, Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office and a jury trial.

Moving forward, TCSO has significantly enhanced its capabilities in handling situations involving excited delirium and crisis calls. We have adopted WRAP restraint systems as alternatives to "hogties" and have integrated mental health co-responders into our operations. Additionally, our use of body cameras and dash cameras ensures transparency and thorough documentation of all encounters.

We are actively reviewing our crisis response policy to ensure it aligns with best practices and maximizes the likelihood of positive outcomes. Thurston County Sheriff’s Office remains steadfast in our commitment to providing the highest level of service to our community.”    

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