Officer acquitted in 2020 death of Manuel Ellis resigns from new deputy job days after being hired

A former Tacoma police officer He was hired as a sheriff's deputy in a neighboring county – Although he was violent Death arrest of Manuel Ellis In 2020 – resigned from his new job after two days.

Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders said in a written statement Wednesday that he failed to anticipate the community's strong objections to the hiring of Deputy Christopher Burbank, which Sanders said included death threats to Burbank's family. Burbank immediately resigned, Sanders said.

Christopher “Shane” Burbank

AP by Brian Hayes/The News Tribune

Burbank and two other officers — Timothy Rankin and Matthew Collins — were each acquitted of criminal charges by a Pierce County jury. Last December In Ellis's death, an unarmed black man was shocked, beaten, tied to a sidewalk by a masked pig and begged to breathe.

Rankin was charged with murder, while Collins and Burbank were charged with manslaughter and second-degree murder. Their attorneys argued that Ellis died from an overdose of methamphetamine and heart disease, not from the officers' actions. The Pierce County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide and said it was caused by a lack of oxygen during body restraints.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle is still investigating and may file charges for federal civil rights violations. A wrongful death lawsuit is pending against Tacoma.

“When I made the decision to hire Deputy Burbank, I failed to consider the larger impact on the community and instead made the decision based on business needs to address TCSO's staffing crisis,” Sanders wrote. “Furthermore, I completely misjudged community perception of the trial and jury process that Deputy Burbank completed. I recognize the harm it caused to marginalized communities, and I was wrong.”

Among critics of the hiring decision, Matthew Erickson, an attorney for Ellis' family, said in an email Tuesday that he would be afraid if he lived in Thurston County. Video evidence showed Burbank using his Taser three times on Ellis, including when another officer choked him.

On Wednesday, Erickson said the family was relieved Burbank had resigned. Amid criticism of the hiring and the Washington Legislature's decision this year to ban police Pig-tying suspects — a law change made in response to Ellis' death — has the family high hopes he won't be forgotten, Erickson said.

“It's obvious that the public still remembers Manny and the terrible things that happened to him,” Erickson said. “Manny's death was 100% preventable, and the people of Washington know that.”

Like many law enforcement agencies across the country, the Thurston County Sheriff's Office struggles with staffing shortages; Burbank will “provide immediate relief to our patrol division,” according to a Facebook post announcing the hire.

The sheriff responded to criticism of the hire Tuesday by saying Burbank will undergo a two-month background check, which will include a polygraph. Sanders emphasized that her office has tried to improve its crisis situation by adding mental health co-responders, dashboards and body-worn cameras to help provide transparency.

But by Wednesday it was clear the hiring wasn't going to work, and Sanders apologized.

“Faith is gained in drops and lost in buckets,” he wrote. “For those who have lost faith in me or what we are trying to accomplish at TCSO, I apologize for letting you down.”

A photo of Manny Ellis is shown during the trial of three Tacoma police officers in Ellis' murder in Pierce County Superior Court, Dec. 11, 2023, in Tacoma, Wash.

AP via Brian Hayes/The News Tribune

Ellis, 33, was walking home with donuts from a 7-Eleven in Tacoma, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Seattle, on March 3, 2020, when he passed a patrol car stopped at a red light with Collins and Burbank. Inside.

Officers said they saw Ellis trying to open the door of a car in the crosswalk and became aggressive when they tried to question him. Collins testified that Ellis displayed “superhuman strength” by lifting Collins off the ground and throwing him into the air.

But three witnesses testified that they saw nothing of the sort. After what appeared to be a brief conversation between Ellis and the officers — both of whom are white — Burbank, who was in the passenger seat, knocked on Ellis and opened his door, they said. Rankin, who arrived with Ellis already handcuffed, kneed on his upper back.

Witnesses — one of whom yelled at officers to stop attacking Ellis — and a doorbell surveillance camera Captured video Some parts of the meeting. The video showed Ellis raising his hands in surrender, Burbank firing a Taser into his chest and Collins wrapping an arm around his neck from behind.

George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police came nearly three months before his death sparked international protests against police brutality.

The Tacoma Police Department found that the officers did not violate its use of authority policy — which was later written — and then updated — and the three officers were offered $500,000 to resign.

Tacoma's home state of Pierce County has settled part of a federal wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the family for $4 million. The lawsuit against the city is still pending.

The trial was the first Under the five-year-old state law Designed to make it easier to prosecute police officers accused of misuse of deadly force.

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