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Manuel Ellis death prompts inquiry into police use of force investigations

After a troubled investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis, Washington's attorney general will analyze other police use of force investigations.

Editor's note: The above video originally aired in June 2020 when Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson launched an inquiry Tuesday into investigations of police use of deadly force after problems arose with the Manuel Ellis death investigation.

Ferguson's office identified at least 30 law enforcement investigations from 2020 that qualify. Some of the investigations are complete and some are ongoing, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

The inquiry was prompted by a conflict of interest in the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation into the death of Ellis, who died in handcuffs while being restrained by Tacoma police in March.

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The sheriff’s department investigated Ellis’ death for more than three months before telling the county prosecutor that several deputies were on the scene and one deputy was involved in restraining Ellis, according to Ferguson.

Ferguson called it “deeply troubling” that the sheriff’s department didn’t comply with Initiative 940, which voters approved in 2018 and regulates police use of force. A component of I-940 that requires “completely independent” investigations into police use of deadly force that ends in death or bodily harm went into effect in January.

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Other than the Ellis investigation, the Attorney General’s Office said it doesn’t have evidence of non-compliance in police use of force investigations in Washington.

The inquiry is separate from the Ellis death investigation, which will now be conducted by Washington State Patrol. Once WSP finishes their investigation, they will refer the case to Ferguson for a possible charging decision.

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