Tacoma police tried to arrest Manuel Ellis on the night of March 3 after officers saw him “trying to open car doors for occupied vehicles,” according to a press release issued by the city police department.
The officers said that there was a physical fight and that Ellis should be physically restricted because he was “a combatant.” Police said that the officers requested medical assistance when they saw that he needed help, but Ellis died at the scene.
The audio recording, captured by Broadcastify, provides additional details about the fatal accident. The officers can be heard calling for obstruction – a kind of restraint in the leg – around 11:26 pm. After about 50 seconds, when the officer sends a message to the sender, a male voice can be heard in the background chanting, “I can’t breathe.”
After a few minutes, an officer requesting an ambulance can be heard.
“They are absolutely positive that this is their brother and son,” family lawyer James Pebble told CNN.
He added that “this family heard it again and again in a heartbreaking manner.”
CNN contacted a spokesperson for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, the agency investigating the matter, but did not get a response immediately. Al-Sharif’s investigators confirmed the recording to KIRO’s CNN and said there was also a video of the incident recorded in the evidence.
Ed Troyer, spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, told KIRO: “When he said he couldn’t breathe, they pushed him to his side and he was breathing and he was talking.”
The four police officers were not charged, but were placed on administrative leave.
Jay State Governor Jay Inseley said in a press release on Friday evening that the state would conduct an independent review of Ellis’ death while the Peres County Sheriff concludes its investigations. Inseley said that the review does not make the results of the investigation into question prematurely, but rather aims to provide confidence in the outcome.
“We know that Manuel Ellis was among the very large number of black men who died while in police custody in America, including here in Washington state. Washington residents deserve every assurance that investigations and accusations of police shootings The deaths of people in the police custody are dealt with promptly, independently and a commitment to justice. “
Two videos have been posted
Each of the alleged melee videos is less than a minute and has been posted on Twitter. One of the videos appears to be showing officers hitting Ellis while lying on the ground. A second video clip shows them carrying Ellis on the ground and asking him to put his hands behind his back.
The videos were posted on the page of the Local Activists Group, Tacoma Action Collection, and filmed by Sarah McDowell, one of the locals who witnessed the arrest.
It is unclear whether the videos were captured before or after the “I can’t breathe” message is sent via the sender’s voice.
After the videos were released on Friday, Troyer said that Sharif’s department is investigating the matter and will not comment.
“We do not comment on it because we do not own it, it is not ours,” he said. “As much as I hope we can all see the full picture and the person can come and fetch part of the issue, that would be great, but none of this happened.”
The mayor of Tacoma and the police union clashed over death
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards is calling for the dismissal and trial of four police officers after Ellis’ death. Woodwards made the comments after a video of Ellis’ arrest appeared.
“At this moment and at this time, and based on the information I know today, the actions of the officers that we saw in this video tonight only confirmed that the death of Manuel Ellis was a murder,” Woods told a news conference on Thursday. “I ask – no, I tell you that I will be calling for several things, and the officers who committed this crime must be expelled and tried to the fullest extent of the law.”
There were protests in Tacoma over Elise’s death.
Ellis’ office died due to respiratory failure due to hypoxia caused by physical restraint, according to the Pierce County Medical Examination Office. Hypoxia is a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply.
Ellis was black. Police said two of the four officers in his case were white, one black and the other Asian.
The Tacoma Police Association wrote in a statement on Thursday that the mayor had sentenced the four officers “without any facts, without investigation, without a fair trial, and in less than a minute of short, clear and partial videos on Twitter”.
“The criminals summoned them,” the union statement said. “They called for their prosecution. They called for the end of their service. She called for all these things without an ounce of evidence to support her words beyond the misplaced anger.”
The union also handled Floyd’s death, saying it was wrong, “repugnant to the badge” and humanity.
“But I understand that Tacoma is not Minneapolis. The incident that concerns Mr. Ellis here in Tacoma was not the same as the incident involving Mr. Floyd,” the statement said. “This is not the time to sacrifice dedicated public servants at the altar of public sentiment.”
Karma Hassan of CNN contributed to this report.