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Washington State Patrol to investigate death of Manuel Ellis in Tacoma police custody

Washington State Patrol will investigate the death of Manuel Ellis in Tacoma police custody in March after conflicts arose with a Pierce County investigation.

The investigation into the death of a Black man in Tacoma police custody will be handled by Washington State Patrol.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that WSP would be in charge of investigating Manuel Ellis’ death after the state discovered several problems with the previous investigation.

Ellis died on March 3 in handcuffs while being restrained by Tacoma police.

RELATED: New video contradicts claim that 'no one choked' Manuel Ellis

Last week Inslee announced the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department would not make charging decisions or finish the investigation because a sheriff’s deputy was at the scene. Inslee said the county prosecutor believed she had "an irreconcilable conflict" that would prevent her office from taking the case.

Inslee said the sheriff’s department appeared to violate two provisions of voter-approved I-940, which regulates police use of force, including failing to appoint a family liaison officer and not having community members assist with the review.

The sheriff’s department also did not get a statement from a state trooper who was briefly on the scene after Ellis was handcuffed, according to Inslee. 

After that trooper was interviewed by WSP and the Attorney General’s Office, Inslee said officials determined that trooper’s involvement was “limited.” However, that trooper will not be part of WSP’s investigation.

RELATED: Autopsy report: Manuel Ellis died in Tacoma police custody due to lack of oxygen, meth contributing factor

Inslee said a state investigation team will be appointed “soon,” and work will begin by the end of next week.

Once state patrol finishes its investigation, the case will be referred to Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who will determine whether criminal charges will be filed against the involved officers.

RELATED: Tacoma police chief will not resign over Manuel Ellis homicide

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