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New probe launched into custodial death of black man in Tacoma

Jay Inslee, governor of Washington state, has ordered an independent investigation into the death of a black man who died while in the custody of Tacoma police.

The move comes after new information emerged this week that at least one sheriff’s deputy and a state trooper were at the scene when the man, Manuel Ellis, was detained and died on March 3. In a nearly nine-minute clip released by the attorney representing Ellis’s family, the 33-year-old man is heard crying out “I can’t breathe, sir” while handcuffed.

The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Protesters rally in Tacoma following the deaths of Manuel Ellis in Tacoma police custody and George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody
A protester holds a “Justice for Manny” sign as fellow protesters march in Tacoma, Washington, US, on June 5, 2020 [Lindsey Wasson/ Reuters]

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department had been close to finishing an investigation, and a briefing with the prosecuting attorney was scheduled for Wednesday. Inslee said he ordered a new probe to make sure that the work is “done free of conflicts of interest” as officers from the sheriff’s department were present at the scene.

The police department has identified the four officers involved in restraining Ellis. They were put on administrative leave last week after the autopsy results were made public.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and the victim’s family have called for those officers to be fired and arrested.

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