Former Tacoma Police officer sues city, Washington state in $47M defamation suit

One of the three Washington State police officers who were acquitted of criminal charges in the 2020 death of Manny Ellis has filed a multmillion-dollar suit against city and state officials, claiming he was falsely accused of criminal and racial misconduct.

Ellis, a black man who was shocked, beaten and held facedown on a sidewalk as he pleaded for breath, died in March 2020 in Tacoma police custody.

Last year during a trial, former Tacoma police officer Timothy Rankine, who is an Asian American, testified that he held Ellis down on his back, despite him pleading that he could not breathe.

The officers’ attorneys argued that Ellis died from a lethal amount of methamphetamine as well as a heart condition, not from the officers’ actions. However, the Pierce County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide and said it was caused by a lack of oxygen during the physical restraint.

OFFICER ACQUITTED IN 2020 DEATH OF MANUEL ELLIS IN TACOMA IS HIRED BY NEIGHBORING SHERIFF’S OFFICE

This photo shows Tacoma Police Officer Timothy Rankine listening during the trial for the murder of Manny Ellis in Pierce County Superior Court Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Tacoma, Washington. ((Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool))

Tacoma Police Officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, who were first on the scene, were charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.

Rankine was cleared of first-degree manslaughter back in December, but claims his reputation was destroyed during the trial.

A doorbell surveillance camera recorded parts of the incident which showed Ellis with his hands up in the air in a surrender position as Burbank shot a Taser at Ellis’ chest and Collins wrapped an arm around his neck from behind.

The video also caught Ellis addressing the officers as “sir” as he told them repeatedly he couldn’t breathe.

The former officer alleges his prosecution was politically motivated and also led to threats against his family. Rankine and his wife are seeking $47 million in damages.

TACOMA POLICE OFFICERS VERDICT REACHED IN MANNY ELLIS DEATH CASE; MAYOR URGES COMMUNITY TO EXPRESS FEELINGS

Protesters pass a mural of Manny Ellis after the three Washington state police officers were cleared of all criminal charges in the 2020 death of Ellis, Dec. 21, 2023, at Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Wash. (AP Photo/Maddy Grassy)

This came after Rankine, along with the other officers, agreed to resign from the department in January in exchange for $500,000 each, which his attorney claimed “barely” compensated Rankine for what he lost.

A spokesperson for the city of Tacoma said in an email to FOX13 on Tuesday that the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Ellis’ death remains under review by the Department of Justice for civil rights violations while state officials are investigating whether to revoke the officers’ certifications.

A federal lawsuit from Ellis’ family is also still pending against the city and the officers. The family previously settled for $4 million with Pierce County, which first investigated Ellis’ death.

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