TACOMA, Wash. — The Pierce County Council voted to approve a $4 million settlement with the family of Manuel Ellis who died while being restrained by Tacoma police in March of 2020.
The county was included in a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit filed by Eillis' family. The complaint also includes the city of Tacoma and multiple individual law enforcement officers.
"No monetary value will ever compensate for the loss or heartache Mr. Ellis’ family and loved ones experienced over the last two years. Nor will it stop the Ellis family or community from grieving his death," a spokesperson for the Pierce County Council said in a statement.
With the approval of the $4,010,000 settlement, the council is ending Pierce County's involvement with the lawsuit.
Attorney for the Ellis family James Bible said the family is now focused on the upcoming steps of the legal process, including the civil suits against the city of Tacoma and some individual law enforcement officers. Three Tacoma Police Officers criminally charged in Ellis' death are still awaiting trial.
"This does not change the amount of liability that is present for the city of Tacoma and its offending officers," Bible said.
Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, died on March 3, 2020, while being restrained by Tacoma police.
Three Tacoma police officers face charges related to his death. Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins are charged with second-degree murder, and Timothy Rankine is charged with first-degree manslaughter.
On the night he died, Ellis was walking home when witnesses said he stopped to talk with Burbank and Collins in their patrol car. The officers got out of their car and knocked Ellis to his knees, according to probable cause documents.
Other responding officers told investigators Burbank and Collins reported Ellis attacked the patrol car, but witnesses said they never saw Ellis strike the officers, according to documents.
Video footage taken by witnesses shows the officers repeatedly hitting Ellis, and investigators say Collins put Ellis into a neck restraint.
Rankine, who was the first backup officer to arrive, applied pressure to Ellis's back and held him in place while Ellis was "hogtied" with a hobble, according to documents.
Ellis could be heard on scanner traffic March 3 saying “I can’t breathe” after Tacoma police handcuffed him at the intersection of 96th Ave and S. Ainsworth. Not long after, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s office determined that Ellis’ death was a homicide and that his cause of death was a loss of oxygen due to physical restraint.