AG Ferguson to conduct inquiry into 2020 ‘deadly force’ investigations statewide

Washington Attorney General
Washington Attorney General's Office
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. 

SEATTLE, Wash. — Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is conducting a statewide inquiry into all uses of deadly force by law enforcement in 2020.

The Attorney General’s Office says this action was prompted by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, which recently violated state law with its investigation of the death of Manuel Ellis, who died while in the custody of Tacoma Police in March.

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Initiative 940, passed in November with 60 percent of the vote, mandates completely independent investigations of incidents of deadly force.

The Sheriff’s Office investigated Ellis’s death for over three months before telling the County Prosecutor that multiple sheriff’s deputies were on scene during his arrest, and another deputy helped restrain him.

Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office failed to appoint at least two non-law enforcement community representatives to the investigation, which is also mandated by I-940.

“Pierce County’s admitted failure to comply with the requirements of I-940 is deeply troubling,” said Ferguson. “I hope our inquiry will find that law enforcement agencies across the state, unlike Pierce County, are following the law that requires independent, transparent investigations into the use of deadly force. Whatever my office finds, we will be transparent with the public.”

Ferguson says he has identified 30 incidents of deadly force statewide that require a new independent investigation. Some of the investigations are complete, and others are still ongoing—and none, other than Pierce County, appear to have violated I-940, according to the Attorney General’s Office.