A press release from the city’s police department said Tacoma police tried to arrest Manuel Ellis on the night of March 3 after officers saw him “trying to open the door of an occupied vehicle.”
Officers said there was a physical altercation and Alice had to physically resist being called a “fighter.” Police said they sought medical help when officers saw the need for help, but Alice died on the spot.
Audio recordings, captured by the website Broadcastify, provide additional details of the fatal incident. Officers may be asked for a race – a kind of foot-resistance – at about 11:26. About 50 seconds later, a male voice was heard in the background as an officer sent a message to the sender, “I can’t breathe.”
A few minutes later an officer was heard requesting for an ambulance.
“They’re absolutely positive that they’re their brother and their son,” family attorney James Bible told CNN.
“This family has heard it over and over again in heartbreaking fashion,” he added.
CNN reached out to a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, the agency investigating the matter, but received no immediate response. Sheriff’s investigators confirmed the authenticity of the recording to CNN-affiliated KIRO and said a video of the incident was also in evidence.
Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ed Troy told KIRO, “When he said he couldn’t breathe, they turned him around and he was breathing and he was talking.”
Four police officers have been charged but have been placed on administrative leave.
Washington Governor Jay Insley said in a news release Friday night that the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office will conduct an independent review of Alice’s death as soon as the investigation is completed. Insili said the review does not question the outcome of the investigation ahead of time, but would like to build confidence in the outcome.
“We know that there were many black people who died in the state of Washington while Manuel Ellis was in American police custody. Managed with commitment. “
Two videos have been posted
Both videos of the alleged protest were posted less than a minute later and on Twitter. A video shows officers watching Alice lying on the ground. A second video shows them holding Alice to the ground and telling her to put her hands behind her back.
The videos were posted on the pages of the local activist group, Tacoma Action Collective, and shot local resident Sarah McDowell, a witness to the arrest.
It is still unclear whether the “I can’t breathe” shout was transmitted across the audio or before the video was recorded.
After posting the videos on Friday, Troy said the sheriff’s department was investigating the matter and would not comment.
“We’re not commenting on it because it’s not ours, it’s not ours,” he said. “As much as I wished we could all see the totality of the picture and we could come to that person and bring a part of the case, it could be great, but nothing of the sort happened.”
Death in clashes between Tacoma mayor and police union
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards has demanded the dismissal and trial of four police officers following the death of Ellis. Wallards made the remarks after a video of Alice’s arrest was released.
“At the moment, based on the information I know today, the actions of the officers we saw in this video tonight only confirmed the death of Manuel Ellis as a homicide,” O’Dardos said at a news conference Thursday. “I’m asking – no, I’m telling you that I’m going to call a number of issues, and the officers who committed this crime should be expelled and the law should be fully administered.”
There have been protests in Tacoma over Alice’s death.
Ellis died of shortness of breath due to hypoxia due to physical restraint, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined. Hypoxia is a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply.
Alice was black; Police said two of the four officers in his case were white, one black and one Asian.
The Tacoma Police Union said in a statement Thursday that the mayor ruled against the four officers “without any information, without investigation, without due process and with less than a minute’s short, blurry, partial Twitter video in hand.”
“He called them guilty. He called for their trial. He called for their removal from the job. And he called for all these things without evidence to support his case even outside the proven wrongdoing campaign,” the union said in a statement.
Union also addressed the issue of Floyd’s death, saying it was wrong and “contrary to the badge” and humanity.
“But understand; Tacoma is not Minneapolis. The incident involving Mr. Ellis here in Tacoma is not the same as the incident involving Mr. Floyd,” the statement said. “This is not the time to sacrifice government employees dedicated to the altar of public sentiment.”
CNN’s Karma Hasan contributed to this report.