Tacoma police officer cleared in Manuel Ellis’ death hired by Thurston County Sheriff’s Office

Former Tacoma Police Officer Christopher Burbank, who was cleared of wrongdoing in the death of Manuel Ellis, has been sworn in as a patrol deputy with the Thurston County Sheriff's Office.

Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders swore in Burbank on Monday as a lateral patrol deputy.

"Deputy Burbank joins us with 14 years of patrol experience and will provide immediate relief in our patrol division," deputies said in a Facebook post. "This lateral hire marks the end of a drought for TCSO, which has not had a lateral patrol deputy apply and pass all phases of the background process since 2021."

The sheriff's office said it has already hired more new employees in 2024 than all of last year. They expect to be fully staffed with no patrol job openings.

A jury in Dec. 2023 found three police officers charged in the death of Manuel Ellis, a Tacoma, Washington man who was beaten, shocked and hogtied face down on a sidewalk, not guilty of all charges.

"[Burbank] obviously wants to continue on in law enforcement, but he also wants to continue on in supporting his family. He has a family and he's got to get to work. So, he's looking forward to earning a paycheck once again," said Burbank's attorney Wayne Frick. "Working for the community, the military and then going into law enforcement after the military, that’s kind of in his blood…His actions will prove that he’s going to be a really good addition to Thurston County."

Matthew Collins, 40, and Christopher Burbank, 38, were charged with 2nd-degree murder and 1st-degree manslaughter. They were found not guilty of all counts.

Ellis died March 3, 2020, nearly three months before George Floyd’s death would spark an international outcry against police brutality.

Ellis was shocked with a Taser, beaten and restrained face down on a Tacoma sidewalk, with police on top of him, as he pleaded for breath. The Pierce County medical examiner ruled Ellis’ death a homicide caused by oxygen deprivation, but lawyers for the officers say a high level of methamphetamine in Ellis’ system and a heart irregularity were to blame.

"[We] find it unusual that an individual that’s currently subject of a federal criminal investigation that also has a pending wrongful death lawsuit against him would be hired for any jurisdiction as law enforcement," wrote Ellis family attorney James Bible following the announcement. "We remain deeply concerned that any jurisdiction would actually give this man a gun, a badge, and the opportunity to commit what could be horrific acts against another citizen. It puts citizens and the folks that find themselves in Thurston County at risk."


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