Tacoma mayor has demanded 4 officers be fired after a black man died in police custody
The mayor of Tacoma, Washington, is demanding that four police officers be fired and prosecuted following the death of a black man in police custody earlier this year.
Mayor Victoria Woodards made the comments after video surfaced showing the arrest of Manuel Ellis, who died after police saw him trying to get into vehicles that had people in them on March 3, according to a news release from the city’s police department.
When officers approached Ellis, there was a physical altercation and Ellis was physically restrained because he was “combative,” police said. The officers called for medical aid when they saw he needed help, but Ellis died.
“In this moment, at this time, based on the information I know today, the officers’ actions we saw on this video tonight only confirmed that Manuel Ellis’ death was a homicide,” Woodards said Thursday in a news conference. “I am asking — no, I am telling you that I am going to call for several things, and the officers who committed this crime should be fired and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Developments related to Ellis’ death come at a time of massive protests and national conversations about the treatment of African Americans by police, largely sparked by the death last week of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Four now-fired officers face charges in that case, including one who is accused of second-degree murder.
There have been protests in Tacoma over Ellis’ death.
Ellis died of respiratory arrest due to hypoxia caused by physical restraint, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office determined. Hypoxia is a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply.
Ellis was black; two of the four officers in his case are white, one is African American and one is Asian, according to police.
Mayor orders money for police body cameras
The Tacoma mayor on Thursday demanded the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office review each officers’ actions and provide the details of each action by the officers on scene. Her office previously said the sheriff’s department was conducting an independent investigation of Ellis’ death.
Woodards also directed the city manager to immediately allocate funds for police body cameras.
The mayor, who is black, said video of Ellis’ arrest “enraged and angered and disappointed” her.
“I don’t get to take this skin color off every day. I don’t get to come out a different person. And while I am mayor, I am still black,” she said.
The four officers were placed on administrative leave immediately after the incident, but the department ruled there were no departmental violations. They had been on full duty until Wednesday, when they went on leave again, the Tacoma police statement said.
Ellis’ cause of death was initially listed as pending while medical examiners awaited toxicology tests, the office told CNN. The death certificate also lists contributing factors of methamphetamine intoxication and dilated cardiomyopathy, commonly known as an enlarged heart, the office said.
Gov. Jay Inslee said the case is a priority for him and the mayor.
“We will be pushing to make sure there is a full and complete investigation,” Inslee said at news conference Wednesday.
CNN’s Carma Hassan contributed to this report.
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