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Medical expert says Manuel Ellis died from oxygen deprivation as Tacoma police restrained him

An expert in forensic pathology testified Monday in the ongoing trial of three Tacoma, Washington, police officers charged with the death of Manuel Ellis that Ellis likely would have lived if not for the officers’ actions to restrain him.

Dr. Roger Mitchell, former chief medical examiner for Washington, D.C., made the statement Monday and last week affirmed ex-Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark’s ruling that Ellis died by homicide from oxygen deprivation caused by physical restraint, The Seattle Times reported.

Officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, both white, are charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, on March 3, 2020. Officer Timothy Rankine, who is Asian American, is charged with manslaughter.


Last week two eyewitnesses characterized the officers as the aggressors in the altercation. Lawyers for the officers have said it was Ellis who acted aggressively, prompting them to respond.

Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday when the prosecution is expected to call a forensic audio expert to testify.

This is the first trial under a Washington state law that makes it easier to prosecute police who wrongfully use deadly force.

The trial, which started Oct. 3, is expected to run four days per week until December.


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