Officers’ lawyers challenge analysis of video that shows Black man’s death in Tacoma, Washington
Oct 5, 2023, 12:30 PM
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Lawyers for three police officers charged in the death of Manny Ellis on Thursday challenged a forensic video analyst’s interpretation of videos shot by witnesses that show the Black man’s fatal arrest in Tacoma, Washington.
Prosecutors also planned to call Ellis’ sister, Monét Carter-Mixon, to testify later Thursday.
Tacoma Officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, both white, are charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Ellis on March 3, 2020. Officer Timothy Rankine, who is Asian American, is charged with manslaughter. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Video evidence is key in the case against the officers. The officers say Ellis was violent toward them during the encounter, but the videos and witness statements indicate he didn’t fight back.
On Wednesday, forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks walked the jury through one of the videos, frame by frame. It shows Collins on the ground behind Ellis with his hands near his neck, and Burbank aiming his Taser at Ellis’ chest.
As Ellis holds his hands in the air in posture indicating surrender, Burbank fires the Taser and Collins puts his arm around Ellis’ neck in a chokehold. Ellis’ head falls to the ground and he stops moving.
On Thursday, attorney Jared Ausserer, representing Collins, said the video shows Ellis did not follow the officers’ repeated commands.
“Collins could be heard saying put your hands behind your back,” Ausserer said. “At no point does he put his hands behind his back.”
“He put his hand behind his back. The video shows it,” he said, adding that Burbank grabbed one of Ellis’ arms that was in the air and put it behind his back.
As they played portions of the video over and over, Ausserer said it appeared that Ellis “dragged” Burbank down to the ground when he shifted his hips, but Fredericks said the video suggests that Burbank simply lost his balance.
When prosecutors played another video on Wednesday showing Collins holding Ellis on the ground and Ellis screaming as he was shocked with the Taser, sobs could be heard from the side of the courtroom where Ellis’ family and supporters were seated.
They also played video from a doorbell security camera from a home across the street. The camera captures Ellis’s pleas: “Can’t breathe, sir, Can’t breathe.”
This is the first trial under a 5-year-old Washington state law designed to make it easier to prosecute police who wrongfully use deadly force.