Manuel Ellis died while in police custody in Tacoma, Washington mere weeks before George Floyd died pleading, “I can’t breathe” after officers with the Minneapolis Police Department kneeled on his neck and back.
According to the New York Times, like Floyd, Ellis pleaded “I can’t breathe” during the incident on March 3.
An autopsy released on Wednesday has revealed that Ellis, 33, died as a result of oxygen deprivation and the physical restraint that was used. His death was ruled a homicide.
“The information is all being put together,” Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Detective Ed Troyer said. “We expect to present it to the prosecutor at the end of this week or early next week.”
The autopsy also noted methamphetamine intoxication and heart disease as contributing factors to Ellis’ death.
Ellis, a father of two, encountered police when they say they saw him banging on the window of another vehicle. Ellis is accused of approaching the officers and tossing one officer to the ground when the officer got out of their vehicle. The two officers and two backup policemen came to assist handcuffed the 33-year-old.
Two of the officers were white, one was Black and one was Asian. KIRO7 identified the officers as Christopher Burbank, 34; Matthew Collins, 37; Masyih Ford, 28; and Timothy Rankine, 31.
“Mr. Ellis was physically restrained as he continued to be combative,” the Tacoma Police Department claimed in a statement.
None of the officers were wearing body cameras and so it is not quite clear what kind of restraint was used against Ellis. Troyer noted that he did not think a chokehold or a knee was used, and that officers rolled Ellis to the side after he said “I can’t breathe.”
“The main reason why he was restrained was so he wouldn’t hurt himself or them,” Detective Troyer said. “As soon as he said he couldn’t breathe, they requested medical aid.”
Ellis was still breathing when medics arrived, and he was removed from handcuffs. Medical personnel performed CPR for 40 minutes before he was pronounced dead.
“My heart literally hurts,” Monet Carter-Mixon, Ellis’ sister told the Times. “It’s painful. My brother was my best friend.”
Ellis was a musician at his church and left behind an 11-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter.
A friend who spoke to Ellis about two hours before his death said that he had been excited to play drums during a church service.
Ellis did have his struggles and was trying to get his life back on track, and was living in a clean-and-sober house at the time of his death, according to the Times.
His family noted in a GoFundMe description that Ellis struggled with addiction, as well as mental health needs that went undiagnosed for many years.
“At the time of his death he was continuing to grow in the fullness of his potential. No matter where he went he had his bible in his hand, a testament to his new found faith that he used to bring his family closer together through the church. He raised his daughter and his nieces and nephews with the understanding that because they were Black their conduct must reflect the understanding that being killed by police was a very real possibility for them and would always be justified by the broader society,” the GoFundMe, meant to help raise money legal fees, noted.