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Family of Manuel Ellis demands independent investigation of his death in Tacoma police custody

The death of Manuel Ellis in Tacoma police custody in March was ruled a homicide.

The family of Manuel Ellis held a press conference Tuesday over the death of the 33-year-old Tacoma man in police custody. 

His family is demanding an independent investigation, saying the Pierce County Sheriff's Office has "too many conflicting interests to independently investigate this homicide."   

Civil rights attorney James Bible spoke on behalf of the family at Tuesday's press briefing and showed videos of the March 3 incident from Ring doorbell cameras at a neighboring home. He said the sheriff's office had custody of the same videos before the Ellis family was aware. 

However, the sheriff's office has a policy that prohibits them from releasing evidence from an ongoing investigation. 

Bible said the investigation of Ellis' death needs to be handled outside the Pierce County Sherrif's Office. 

"If the state is hearing this, if the Governor is hearing this, the Governor has a responsibility here to all people, including Manny Ellis," Bible said. "The Governor has a responsibility to these families that need to be in a place where these things are actually actively investigated." 

Gov. Jay Inslee said last week that he and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards will push to ensure there is a “full and complete investigation into the death” of Manuel Ellis who died March 3 in handcuffs while being restrained by Tacoma police. 

RELATED: Gov. Inslee calls for independent review of Manuel Ellis’ death in Tacoma police custody

Police say two Tacoma police officers had asked Ellis if he needed help and when the officer stepped out of the car to talk, Ellis allegedly assaulted the officer, leading to the restraint.

Ellis died after being handcuffed by Tacoma police. The medical examiner found that Ellis' death was a homicide and that the cause of death was a lack of oxygen due to being restrained. 

The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Ellis died of respiratory arrest due to hypoxia due to physical restraint and ruled Ellis’ death a homicide.

Inslee said the state will conduct an independent review of the investigation and any charging decisions related to the death of Manuel Ellis, a black man killed while in Tacoma police custody in March.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards has called for the firing of the officers involved in the restraint and death of 33-year-old Ellis. 

RELATED: Video shows Tacoma officer punching, restraining Manuel Ellis

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