Home security video shows new angle of the night a man died in Tacoma police custody

TACOMA, Wash. -- Home security video shows a new angle of the night a man died while in Tacoma police custody in March.

The family of Manuel Ellis and their attorney held a news conference Tuesday to show the video and call for an independent investigation in the case.

Attorney James Bible said 33-year-old Ellis is heard in the video screaming, "I can’t breathe, sir!"

Bible also said it sounds like an officer is telling Ellis to "shut the f**k up."

Ellis’ mother, Marcia Carter, was sobbing while listening to her son’s last words, eventually excusing herself from the news conference.

The video was captured from a home security camera across the street from the encounter back in March. The attorney said his team just recently received the video from the homeowner. Last week, a witness provided cellphone video showing a different angle from that night.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office is the investigating agency on the case. Detective Ed Troyer said investigators already had the home security video and assures the agency is not withholding information.

"We can’t release evidence or materials until after it’s been presented to the prosecutor, per state law and to maintain the integrity of the investigation," said Troyer.

He said detectives and county medical examiners are scheduled to present their investigation to the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review on Wednesday.

“We will make all of our evidence, including our personnel, available to any investigative agency that is involved in this case once that decision is made,” said Troyer. "At that time, we would release all of the evidence to the public, including any and all videos that have been turned over to us.”

Investigators said on March 3rd, officers handcuffed Ellis and restrained him on the ground after they said he attacked an officer. Ellis told officers he had trouble breathing and paramedics were called, but minutes later he died.

In early June, medical examiners ruled his death a homicide. Medical examiners also found Ellis had an existing heart condition and drugs in his system. It was determined he died after going into respiratory arrest due to being restrained.

Bible said the family does not trust the sheriff’s office to conduct the investigation because they believe it is a conflict of interest.

“We can’t let offending agencies and their friends investigate each other,” said Bible. “Pierce County, Pierce County Sheriff’s, Tacoma municipal police department — they all need to step aside. And they all need to say we can’t do this because we have a conflict.”

Bible is also asking Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Robnett to recuse herself from the case. The family is calling on Governor Jay Inslee’s office and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office to take on the case.