TACOMA, Wash. - For the first time since the death of Manny Ellis while in Tacoma Police custody in 2020, one of the officers charged is publicly sharing their side of the story.
On Monday, Tacoma Police officer Matthew Collins testified about what happened that night.
Several different cameras captured different angles and moments of the encounter between Ellis and the officers. However, there is no video evidence of what led up to the incident.
On the stand, Collins stated why he and his partner engaged Ellis.
"There was a sedan that was trying to turn left, and I saw, who I now know as Mr. Ellis, at the passenger door, trying to work the passenger door open," said Collins. "One thing to understand is on the east side in Tacoma, this was not that crazy of a thing. I mean there is stuff happening all the time, in the street, everywhere really. But I didn’t know, you know, was this a domestic violence thing where someone got kicked out of a car, was this guy just trying to get a ride? Was this, who knows, a carjacking? Could be anything," he added.
Collins said the sedan drove away and Ellis was left standing in the middle of the street. Collins testified he called Ellis over to his patrol car and asked him what he was doing.
"Then he comes strangely close to the vehicle, like not an average distance, he kind of is right up on it, and so I backed up and was like, ‘Whoa, what's going on?'" said Collins. "I immediately knew someone was wrong. His eyes were super wide, and he was sweating profusely, and it was a cold night," Collins added.
Collins stated Ellis told him he had warrants. He said he asked Ellis to go sit on the sidewalk, but he said Ellis' demeanor changed. Collins stated Ellis started eyeing up his partner, Officer Christopher Burbank. He said Ellis then punched the car window where Burbank sat.
Collins said punching the patrol car was now a crime, so he got out of the vehicle to engage Ellis.
"As soon as I get to the front of the vehicle, he takes his focus off of Burbank, and comes right at me and grabs me by my vest, and picks me up and throws me backwards into the intersection," said Collins.
During the prosecution’s cross-examination, the Attorney General’s office special prosecutor Patty Eakes focused on audio captured during the fight of Ellis saying he couldn’t breathe.
Eakes: "You can hear Mr. Ellis saying he can’t breathe there, can’t you?"
Collins: "I can hear something, yeah"
Eakes: "Are you saying you can’t hear [that] he said, ‘I can’t breathe?’"
Collins: "I can hear ‘breathe’ in there for sure, so. See now, when you’re saying, when you’re asking me over and over again, and you’re listening to it in a courtroom over and over again, it’s much different clarity than on the street. I can tell you that."
Officer Timothy Rankine is expected to take the stand some time on Tuesday. Rankine was in the second unit who responded to the scene. Rankine is charged with manslaughter.