Takoma police tried to arrest Manuel Ellis on the night of March 3 after police saw him “opening the doors of occupied vehicles,” according to a press release from the city’s police department.
Officials said there was a physical altercation and Ellis had to be detained, of course, because he was a “fighter”, the release said. Police said police asked for medical help when they saw that help was needed, but Ellis died on the scene.
The recording, recorded by the Broadcastify website, provides additional details about the fatal incident. Officers are heard calling for a hobby – a kind of foot restraint – around 11:26 p.m. About 50 seconds later, as an officer transmits a message to the sender, a male voice can be heard in the background shouting, “I can’t breathe.”
A few minutes later an officer asking for an ambulance was heard.
“They are absolutely positive that this is their brother and their son,” James Bible, a family lawyer, told CNN.
“This family has repeatedly heard it in a sad way,” he added.
CNN has contacted Pierce County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, the agency that is investigating the matter, but did not receive an immediate response. Sheriff’s investigators confirmed the recording to CNN’s KIRO associate and said there was also a video of the incident being linked to evidence.
“When he said he couldn’t breathe, they rolled him to the side and he was breathing and talking,” said Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
The four police officers have not been charged, but have been placed on administrative leave.
Washington Governor Jay Insel said in a press release Friday night that the state would conduct an independent review of Ellis’ death as the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office completes its investigation. The review does not call into question the results of the investigation prematurely, Inslee said, but aims to provide confidence in the result.
“We know that Manuel Ellis was one of the many black people who died during the police detention in America, including here in Washington state. Washington deserves reassurance that investigations and charges related to police shootings and deaths in police custody are being addressed with urgency, independence and commitment to justice. “
Two videos have been posted
Both videos of the alleged confrontation are less than a minute long and were posted on Twitter. A video appears to show officers beating Elis as she lies on the ground. A second video shows them holding Ellis on the ground and telling him to put his hands behind his back.
The videos were posted on the page of a local activist group, Tacoma Action Collective, and were shot by Sara McDowell, a resident of the area who saw the arrest.
It is not clear whether the video recordings were taken before or after the “I can’t breathe” voice through the transmitter’s sound.
Following the release of the videos on Friday, Troyer said the sheriff’s office was investigating the matter and would not comment.
“We don’t comment on it because we don’t have it, it’s not ours,” he said. “As long as I wish we could all see the whole picture and we could have the person come and bring a part of the case, that would be great, but nothing happened.”
The mayor of Tacoma and the police union are fighting to the death
Takoma Mayor Victoria Woodrich is calling for the dismissal and dismissal of four police officers after Elis’ death. Woodards made the comments after the video of Elis’ arrest appeared.
“At the moment, based on the information I know today, the actions of the officers we saw in this video tonight only confirmed that Manuel Ellis’ death was a homicide,” Woodards told a news conference on Thursday. “I ask – no, I am telling you that I am going to ask for many things and the officers who committed this crime must be fired and prosecuted in accordance with the law.”
There have been protests in Tacoma over Elis’ death.
Ellis died of respiratory failure due to hypoxia caused by physical restraint, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office. Hypoxia is a condition in which the body lacks adequate oxygen supply.
Ellis was black. Two of the four police officers in his case are white, one is black and one is Asian, according to police.
The Tacoma Police Department said in a statement on Thursday that the mayor had issued a decision on the four officers “without incident, without investigation, without due process and with less than a minute’s notice, some videos on Twitter”.
“He called them criminals. He called for their prosecution. He called for an end to their employment. And he asked for all these things without a shred of evidence to support her words beyond the wrong anger,” the union said in a statement.
The union also blamed Floyd’s death, saying it was wrong and “deterrent to the brand” and humanity.
“But understand: Tacoma is not Minneapolis. The incident involving Mr. Ellis here in Tacoma was not the same as the incident involving Mr. Floyd,” the statement said. “It’s not time for dedicated civil servants to sacrifice on the altar of public sentiment.”
CNN’s Carma Hassan contributed to the report.