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Inslee calls for independent investigation into death of Tacoma man in police custody

UPDATED: Wed., June 10, 2020

A protester holds a sign that reads “Justice for Manny”  (Ted S. Warren)
A protester holds a sign that reads “Justice for Manny” (Ted S. Warren)
By Laurel Demkovich The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday he was calling for a new investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis, a Black man killed in Tacoma by police while being restrained in March.

After previously stating he wanted an independent review of Ellis’ death, Inslee said Wednesday he did not think the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office should continue the investigation and that the county prosecutor should not file any charges.

Inslee emphasized the importance of an independent investigation and prosecutorial process at a Wednesday press conference.

“We are committed to that, and we intend to fulfill that commitment,” Inslee said.

Inslee said he came to the conclusion after the county prosecutor informed the state Tuesday that the sheriff’s office had officers at the scene of Ellis’ death. The state was also informed that a Washington State Patrol trooper responded to the scene while Ellis was in custody and still alive. That trooper is being questioned, Inslee said.

Because of the new information, the county prosecutor believed she had a conflict of interest, Inslee said.

David Postman, Inslee’s chief of staff, said this information was brought to his attention by the Tacoma Action Collective, an activist group that staged a small rally Monday on the steps of the Legislative Building, demanding an independent investigation.

The governor said he did not know why it took so long for the sheriff’s office and the state patrol to share this information with the state.

It is unclear who will conduct the new investigation and who will make charging decisions, Inslee said, adding he does not know how long it will take to determine that.

“This family deserves independence, and the state does as well,” Inslee said.

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