WA Man Said ‘I Can’t Breathe’ While Dying in Police Custody

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A black man who called out “I can’t breathe” before dying in police custody in Tacoma, Wa., was killed as a result of oxygen deprivation and the physical restraint that was used on him, reports the New York Times. The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that the death of Manuel Ellis, 33, was a homicide. Ellis’s sister, Monet Carter-Mixon, called for scrutiny of both the police department’s practices and how the investigation into his death has been handled. Ellis died from respiratory arrest, hypoxia and physical restraint, according to the medical examiner’s office. The report listed methamphetamine intoxication and heart disease as contributing factors.

Police officers encountered Ellis, a musician and father of two on March 3 as they were stopped at an intersection. They saw him banging on the window of another vehicle, said detective Ed Troyer. Ellis approached the officers, and threw an officer to the ground when the officer got out of the vehicle. The two officers and two backup officers — two of them white, one black and one Asian — handcuffed him. “Mr. Ellis was physically restrained as he continued to be combative,” the Tacoma Police Department said. Troyer said he did not believe officers used a chokehold or a knee on Ellis’s neck. They rolled him on his side after he called out, “I can’t breathe.” Troyer said, “The main reason why he was restrained was so he wouldn’t hurt himself or them. As soon as he said he couldn’t breathe, they requested medical aid.”

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