On March 3rd, 2020 Manuel Ellis of Tacoma, Washington’s last words were “I can’t breathe.” Last words that should haunt us all, words that haunt those protesting for George Floyd, and words that haunt Ellis’s family.
Manuel, or Manny as he’s known to his family, was approached by officers as he was walking home at 11:22 p.m. on the night of March 3rd. He was reportedly harassing a woman and the police asked him what he was doing. According to the police, Manuel became combative, throwing a police officer to the ground. Four officers struggled to restrain Manuel and soon after they did he quickly lost consciousness after claiming he could not breathe. The police officers then called for medical help, which arrived in four minutes; however, after medical personnel worked on Manuel for over 40 minutes, he was pronounced dead at the scene. All reports of what happened to Manuel Ellis on March 3 come from the four police officers on the scene who were not wearing body cameras.
The details of how Manuel Ellis died are unclear, however, the medical examiner’s report sheds some light stating that Manuel died from respiratory arrest, hypoxia, and physical restraint. Ultimately, Manuel’s autopsy indicates that he was murdered. Information about the night of March 3rd is getting put together and a prosecutor is expected to be appointed in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Ellis’s family has many questions. It was not typical for Manuel to act violently in the way the police described. He was a happy man living in a clean-and-sober house, who had a gift for music. Just hours before his death, Manuel was excited to play drums at a local church service.
The case of Manuel Ellis is hauntingly similar to George Floyd. These similarities should scare us because only one name incited protests and made national news. The people of the United States only pay attention to police brutality when they are presented with overwhelming proof of murder, and even then it takes days for prosecutors to press charges with the kind evidence homicide detectives dream about. US citizens had to watch Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed against the nape of George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, killing him, before they took to the streets to protest the police brutality and violence against black Americans that has plagued our nation since its founding. If we continue to allow our justice system to run the way it is we will never be able to say all their names, we will never bring justice to the victims of police brutality, and we will never be even close to a great nation. It will take radical change, not only by voting, but through protests, through education, and through continued active participation in creating justice.
To my fellow white citizens, we cannot forget about the issues that plague our nation because they do not plague us; our silence directly benefits the racist systems in this country. To black citizens, I have forgotten before, I have failed justice, and I am ashamed of that, but I will never forget again.