Three police officers who were acquitted in the death of Manuel Ellis, a Black man, will receive $500,000 each to resign from the police department.
Timothy Rankine, Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, who were officers in the Tacoma Police Department in Washington, were found not guilty last month. All three had been charged with manslaughter, and Collins and Burbank were also charged with second-degree murder.
In March 2020, Ellis, 33, was on his way home from buying doughnuts at 7-Eleven when he passed Collins and Burbank, who were in their police car stopped at a red light.
After a brief conversation with the officers, witnesses said Burbank threw open the car door, hitting Ellis from the back and knocking him to the ground. Prosecutors said they then got out of the car, beat Ellis, put him in a chokehold and fired a Taser at him.
Ellis had his hands raised in surrender, but the three officers ‘continued to escalate the incident,’ prosecutors said, according to the New York Times.
A nearby doorbell camera captured footage of Ellis, who was pinned down and not resisting, telling the officers, ‘Can’t breathe, sir. Can’t breathe!’
The officers did not let up and proceeded to hogtie Ellis and pull a hood over his head. When the Fire Department arrived at the scene minutes later, Ellis was pronounced dead.
Ellis’s death was ruled a homicide caused by oxygen deprivation due to physical restraint, with a heart condition and methamphetamines being deemed contributing factors.
In a statement on Tuesday, Tacoma Police Department Chief Avery L. Moore said the three officers had ‘voluntarily agreed to separate from their positions.’
Moore said that besides the department’s ‘policy on courtesy,’ the officers were not found to have violated any of the policies that existed at the time of the incident. In spite of this, Moore acknowledged that the use of force policy that had been in practice at the time ‘failed to serve the best interests of the police department or the community.’
‘However, because it was policy at the time, it guided my decisions announced today,’ Moore said.
According to a voluntary resignation agreement signed by the officers, all three received $500,000 apiece for the deal, which states that they leave in “good standing.”
‘This says to the public that these are excellent officers, and it’s a shame Tacoma is losing them,’ Anne Bremner, an attorney for one of the officers, told the Associated Press.
But Matthew Ericksen, an attorney for the Ellis family, decried the payout as “perverse,” saying they were “effectively being rewarded” for the death at their hands — on top of the $1.5 million in total they’ve also received during their four years of leave from the department.
“The worst TPD officers are also the highest paid TPD officers!” Ericksen said. “Everyone in the community should be upset by this.”