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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington Senate passes bill to ban hog-tying by police after death of Manuel Ellis

Council member Jamika Scott and family members of Manny Ellis gather with protesters in front of a mural memorializing Ellis after three police officers were acquitted in his death on Dec. 21.  (Grace Deng/Washington State Standard)
By Grace Deng Washington State Standard

The Washington Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to ban police from hog-tying people, nearly four years after Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, died in custody while hog-tied facedown on a Tacoma sidewalk, pleading for breath.

Hog-tying has long been criticized for the risk of suffocation and is banned in much of Washington. In December, a jury acquitted three police officers who faced charges over Ellis’ death. The case remains a rallying cry for racial justice activists in the Pacific Northwest.

“Regardless of how you feel about the outcomes of that particular case, regardless of how you feel about anything, I think it’s important to remember that he was loved,” state Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, D-Tacoma, lead sponsor of the legislation, said referring to Ellis.

“He was loved and he was somebody’s family member,” she told her fellow lawmakers. “I think any of us on the floor would not want our family member to spend the final moments of their life in this inhumane way.”

Senate Bill 6009 next goes to the House for consideration. The bill defines hog-tying as fastening together a person’s bound or restrained ankles to their bound or restrained wrists.

Monet Carter-Mixon, Ellis’ sister, testified in support of the legislation at a Senate committee hearing in January. She said hog-tying is an “animalistic thing to do” and pointed out that hog-tying was originally used on animals before being branded or slaughtered.

“This is just a small step for accountability,” Carter-Mixon said. “I hope we do get to see true accountability.”

Tacoma’s police department has banned hog-tying. The Washington state attorney general’s office recommends not using hog-tying in its use-of-force model policy released in 2022, and the U.S. Department of Justice has recommended against the practice since at least 1995 to avoid deaths in police custody.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, however, still allows hog-tying and was the only department statewide to publicly defend its use to the attorney general.

The three officers charged and found not guilty of Ellis’ death were Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins, who were charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, and Timothy Rankine, who was charged with first-degree manslaughter.

A medical examiner determined that Ellis died due to a lack of oxygen caused by physical restraint. The defense argued that Ellis’ death was caused by methamphetamine use and heart irregularity.

Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, a former state trooper, joined Trudeau in sponsoring the bill. Lovick said he has “lived with the shame of watching a person be hog-tied.”

“We know better now,” Lovick said. “It is time for us to end the use of this dehumanizing technique.”

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and Tacoma city council member Jamika Scott also testified in support of the legislation in committee.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ lobbyist, James McMahan, said that instead of banning hog-tying, the Legislature should invest in alternatives, but did not specify which alternatives the group would recommend.