Murder of Manuel Ellis – outrage over cops’ acquittal


Manuel (Manny) Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man from Tacoma, Washington, was murdered by cops on March 3, 2020. Ellis was walking home at night after buying some doughnuts. Like Trayvon Martin of Florida, walking home with a newly bought bag of candy, Ellis never made it home. As he approached a police car, he was attacked by a group of cops, assaulted, pinned to the ground and, after saying, “I can’t breathe” five times, like George Floyd and Eric Garner, he was dead.

A mural honoring Manuel Ellis and calling for justice in his death fills a wall in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. Credit: South Seattle Emerald

The cop murder of Ellis came two months before the murder of Floyd in Minneapolis. The racist violence of the state is almost routine under capitalism in order to keep the rich in power. But after the insurrectionary uprising following Floyd’s murder, people came to support the cause of Manuel Ellis.

Ellis’ family supported him; His sister, Monet Carter-Mixon, helped rally the community to demand justice. Only after Floyd’s murder in 2020 were three of the cop murderers — Mathew Collins, Christopher (Shane) Burbank and Timothy Rankine — arrested. They were bailed out of jail by a rich Tacoma business owner.

There were many demonstrations and rallies for Ellis after his murder and during the cops’ 10-week trial that ended in an acquittal Dec. 21, 2023. Groups like the Tacoma Action Collective organized protests. A large, beautiful mural of Ellis with the words “Justice for Manny” was painted on the side of a storefront in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. When Carter-Mixon’s family received many food donations to help the family during the long trial, they were able to feed lots of poor community members in front of the mural.

On the night of his murder, Ellis approached a police car, and one of the cops forcefully swung the door open and knocked him to the ground. Cops then punched Ellis, zapped him three times with a Taser gun, handcuffed, hogtied, placed him in a neckhold and forced a spit hood over his face, while a whole group of cops took turns sitting on his back, pressing him down on the pavement. There were more cops involved in Ellis’ murder than the three cops charged.

Courts put Ellis, not cops, on trial

The trial of the cops was a racist, KKK-like affair led by Judge Brian Chushcoff.  “The victim was demonized, race barred from discussion and prior actions of officers excluded from testimony,” wrote Naomi Ishikawa of the Seattle Times.  Burbank had 15 use-of-force investigations and one racial profiling investigation in his background. None of this was allowed to be presented during the trial.

But Judge Chushcoff allowed days of testimony about Ellis’ few minor drug arrests. His lawyers brought out three separate videos and eyewitnesses from the neighborhood of the brutal, racist cop attack. While this is usually considered decisive and overwhelming evidence, it was disparaged. The medical examiner had ruled Ellis’ death a homicide caused by oxygen deprivation by physical restraint.  This was ignored by a judge openly on the side of the cops in a courtroom often full of off-duty cops.

The three cops most involved in the murder of Ellis — and the only ones charged — were acquitted of second-degree murder, in the cases of Collins and Burbank, and first-degree manslaughter in the case of all three. These cops had never been fired, only placed on leave three years ago. During this time they received full salaries of $1.5 million. This is a rip-off of taxpayers!

After the bogus verdict, 100 demonstrators rallied at the “Justice for Manny” mural and then marched on the police station.

Ellis’ lawyer, James Bible, said that a $4 million civil suit over Ellis’ death had already been filed. He said that information suppressed in the criminal trial could come out in a civil trial and that the door was open to federal charges against the killer cops.

Monet Carter-Mixon said, “It’s the worst … I felt like my brother was on trial.” This was true. The racist state put the deceased Manuel Ellis on trial instead of the racist cops.

According to Lenin, the state always tries to make itself look like an arbiter between the working class — in this case represented by Manuel Ellis — and the ruling class, the bosses and bankers who the police always represent. But this is a lie and a false representation on the part of the bourgeoisie, because under capitalism the state always comes down on the side of the ruling class. It is they who profit from the exploitation of the multinational working class, allowing police murder, forced evictions, poverty wages and prisons.

The capitalist class, a small minority class, is working in vain against the 9.5 million people who marched against the bloody police state after the murder of George Floyd.

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