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Officer acquitted in 2020 death of Manuel Ellis in Tacoma is employed by neighboring sheriff’s office

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SEATTLE (AP) — One of three Tacoma law enforcement officials cleared of criminal charges in the 2020 death of Manuel Ellis — a Black man who was shocked, beaten and pinned face down on the sidewalk as he pleaded for breath — has been hired by the neighbor’s sheriff’s office.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, based in Olympia, Washington, announced Monday on its Facebook page that it has hired former Tacoma Officer Christopher Burbank as a patrol deputy.

Burbank and two other officers – Timothy Rankine and Matthew Collins – were cleared of criminal charges by a Pierce County grand jury last December. Rankine was charged with manslaughter, while Collins and Burbank were charged with manslaughter and second-degree murder.

Their lawyers argued that Ellis died from a lethal dose of methamphetamine and heart disease, not in consequence of the officers’ actions. The Pierce County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide and determined it was caused by lack of oxygen during physical restraint.

Ellis’ family was shocked and saddened by the hiring, said attorney Matthew Ericksen. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle continues to review the case, which could result in criminal prosecution for federal civil rights violations, and a wrongful death lawsuit is pending.

“There is strong evidence in the Ellis case, including but not limited to cell phone videos, that should be of interest to any reasonable person,” Ericksen said in an email Tuesday. “There is no dispute that Mr. Burbank tased an unarmed person 3 times. Mr. Burbank even used a Taser when one other officer choked Manny.

Like many law enforcement agencies across the country, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office is fighting staffing shortages; a Facebook post announcing the hiring said Burbank would “provide immediate assistance to our patrol division.”

In an emailed statement Tuesday, Sheriff Derek Sanders said Burbank underwent a two-month background check, including a polygraph examination. Sanders emphasized that his office is attempting to improve its emergency response by including mental health professionals, and added that the dashboard and body-worn cameras help provide transparency.

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“While recognizing the disturbing nature of the events in Tacoma four years ago, we want to emphasize that Deputy Burbank has been cleared of any wrongdoing by both the Tacoma Police Department, the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office and the jury trial,” Sanders said.

Ellis, 33, was walking home with donuts from a 7-Eleven in Tacoma, about 30 miles south of Seattle, on March 3, 2020, when he passed a police automotive stopped at a red light with Collins and Burbank inside.

Officers claimed they saw Ellis attempting to open the door of a passing automotive on the intersection, and after they tried to query him, he became aggressive. Collins testified that Ellis demonstrated “superhuman strength” by lifting Collins off the bottom and throwing him into the air.

However, three witnesses testified that they saw nothing of the sort. After what seemed to be a transient conversation between Ellis and the officers – who were each white – Burbank, in the passenger seat, threw open the door, knocking Ellis down, they said. Rankine, who arrived after Ellis was already handcuffed face down, knelt on his back.

Witnesses – one of whom shouted for officers to stop attacking Ellis – and an intercom surveillance camera recorded video of part of the encounter. The video shows Ellis together with his hands raised in a give up position as Burbank shot him in the chest with a stun gun and Collins put his arm around his neck from behind.

His death got here nearly three months before the murder of George Floyd by the hands of Minneapolis police, which sparked international protests against police brutality.

The Tacoma Police Department found that the officers didn’t violate its use-of-force policy on the time – which was subsequently updated – and the three officers each received $500,000 to resign.

Pierce County, where Tacoma is positioned, has settled part of the family’s federal wrongful death lawsuit for $4 million. The case against the town is still pending.

The trial was the primary under a five-year-old state law intended to make it easier to prosecute police accused of illegal use of deadly force.


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Crime

‘Goon Squad’ officers who tortured Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker sentenced in state court

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Rankin County District Judge Steve Ratcliff on Wednesday handed down the boys’s multi-year state sentences, which can run concurrently or concurrently with their federal sentences, and the boys will serve their sentences in federal penitentiaries.

BRANDON, Miss. (AP) – Six former Mississippi law enforcement officers who pleaded guilty to an extended list of state and federal charges for torturing two black men were already sentenced to federal prison Wednesday in state court.

Six white former law enforcement officers in Mississippi who attacked Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker in January 2023 have already been sentenced to federal prison from about 10 to 40 years. In March, U.S. District Judge Tom Lee called their actions “outrageous and despicable,” handing down sentences near the best federal guidelines for five of the six men.

Rankin County District Judge Steve Ratcliff on Wednesday gave the boys multi-year state sentences that were shorter than the federal prison time they already received but longer than what state prosecutors had beneficial. The time served on the state sentences will run concurrently or concurrently with the federal sentences, and the boys will serve their sentences in federal prisons.

This photo combination shows (from top left) former Rankin County Sheriff’s deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke and former Richland Police Officer Joshua Hartfield in August 2023 appearing in Rankin County District Court in Brandon, Mississippi. Last yr, two black men tortured for hours by six convicted law enforcement officers on Monday urged a federal judge to impose the harshest possible penalties on them. (Photo / s: Rogelio V. Solis/AP, file)

The case sparked outrage from the nation’s top law enforcement officials, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, who said the officers committed a “heinous attack on the citizens they were sworn to protect.” Local residents saw echoes of Mississippi history in the gruesome details of the episode racist atrocities by people in power.

The first defendant to be sentenced Wednesday was Brett McAlpin, the fourth-highest rating officer with the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office. McAlpin was previously sentenced by a federal judge to roughly 27 years in federal prison. On Wednesday, a state court sentenced him to fifteen years in prison on one count and five years on the opposite.

Before the sentencing, Malik Shabazz, an attorney representing Jenkins and Parker, said the state sentencing hearing can be a “test” for Ratliff and state prosecutors.

“State criminal sentences are important because Mississippi has historically lagged behind or ignored racist crimes and police brutality against Black people, and the Department of Justice has had to lead,” Shabazz said.

The defendants are five former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies – McAlpin, 53; Hunter Elward, 31; Christian Dedmon, 29; Jeffrey Middleton, 46; and Daniel Opdyke, 28, and former Richland City Police Officer Joshua Hartfield, 32, who was off-duty on the time of the assault.

All six former officers He pleaded guilty to the state charges brought against him obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct prosecution. Dedmon and Elward, who kicked in the door, also admitted breaking into the home.

There were accusations an Associated Press investigation in March it linked some officers to at the very least 4 violent encounters since 2019 that resulted in the deaths of two Black men.

The former law enforcement officers pleaded guilty to breaking right into a home with no warrant and torturing Jenkins and Parker in an hours-long attack that included beatings, repeated use of stun guns and assaults with a sex toy before one among the victims was shot in the mouth.

According to federal prosecutors, the phobia began on January 24, 2023, with a racist incitement to extrajudicial violence.

A white person called Rankin County Deputy Brett McAlpin and complained that two black men were with a white woman at a house in Braxton, Mississippi. McAlpin told Christian Dedmon, who texted a bunch of white deputies who were so willing to make use of excessive force that they called themselves “The Goon Squad.”

Once inside, they handcuffed Jenkins and his friend Parker, then poured milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup in their faces while taunting them with racial slurs. They forced them to strip naked and take a shower together to cover the mess. They taunted the victims with racist slurs and attacked them with sexual objects.

In a mock execution that went improper, Elward shot Jenkins in the mouth, splitting his tongue and breaking his jaw. The officers got here up with a cover-up and agreed to plant drugs on Jenkins and Parker. For months, false charges were brought against the boys.

Michael Corey Jenkins (third from left) and Eddie Terrell Parker (right) stand with supporters outside a courthouse in Jackson, Missouri, Tuesday, March 19, 2024, calling for severe punishment for six former law enforcement officers who committed quite a few crimes. racist, motivated, brutal torture acts against himself and his friend Eddie Terrell Parker in 2023. Six former law officers have pleaded guilty to plenty of charges for torturing them, and their sentencing begins Tuesday in federal court. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

According to prosecutors, McAlpin and Middleton, the oldest in the group, threatened to kill other officers in the event that they spoke out. According to his lawyer Jeff Reynolds, Opdyke was the primary to confess what they did. Opdyke showed investigators a WhatsApp text thread in which officers discussed their plan, Reynolds said.

The only defendant who didn’t face a federal prison term that exceeded the sentencing criteria was Hartfield, who didn’t work with others in the sheriff’s department and was not a member of the “Thug Squad.”

In federal court, deputies expressed remorse for his or her actions and apologized to Jenkins and Parker. Several of their attorneys said their clients were caught up in a culture of corruption encouraged by sheriff’s office leaders.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey didn’t release any details about his deputies’ actions when he announced they were fired last June. After they he pleaded guilty in August, Bailey said officers had gone rogue and promised changes. Jenkins and Parker called on him to resign and contributed $400 million civil lawsuit against the school.

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78-Year-Old Black Woman Ruby Johnson Wins $3.8 Million Judgment After SWAT Team Searched Wrong Home

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The owner of the stolen truck with the iPhone inside mistakenly tracked the phone to Johnson’s home using the Find My app and passed the data to police.

DENVER (AP) — A 78-year-old woman who sued two law enforcement officials after a SWAT team trying to find a stolen truck mistakenly searched her home has won a $3.76 million jury verdict under a brand new Colorado law that enables people to sue the police for violating their state constitutional rights.

Late Friday, a jury in state court in Denver ruled in favor of Ruby Johnson, and on Monday the decision was announced by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which helped represent her within the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that police served a search warrant at the house after the owner of the stolen truck, which contained 4 semi-automatic handguns, a rifle, a revolver, two drones, $4,000 in money and an iPhone, tracked the phone to Johnson’s home. using the Find My app and passed this information on to the police.

This photo, taken from Denver police body camera footage provided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, shows 78-year-old Ruby Johnson surrounded by SWAT officers in January 2022. Johnson, who sued two law enforcement officials after the SWAT team improperly searched her home trying to find a stolen truck won a $3.76 million jury verdict on Monday. (Photo: Denver Police Department via AP)

According to the lawsuit, Johnson, a retired U.S. Postal Service worker and grandmother, had just stepped out of the shower on Jan. 4, 2022, when she heard an order over a bullhorn for everybody inside to get out with their hands up. Wearing only a bathrobe, she opened the front door to see an armored personnel carrier parked on the front lawn, police vehicles lining the road, and men in full military gear carrying rifles and a police dog.

According to the lawsuit, Detective Gary Staab wrongfully obtained a search warrant for Johnson’s home because he did not indicate that the data on the app was imprecise and only showed a general location where the phone is perhaps situated.

Staab’s lawyers and the supervisor who approved the search warrant, Sgt. Gregory Buschy, who was also sued, didn’t reply to emails and phone calls searching for comment. The Denver Police Department, which was not sued, declined to comment on the decision.

The lawsuit was brought under a provision of the Major Police Reform Act passed in 2020 shortly after George Floyd’s murder and is the primary significant case to go to trial, the ACLU of Colorado said. State lawmakers created the appropriate to sue individual law enforcement officials for state constitutional violations in state court. Previously, people alleging police misconduct could only file lawsuits in federal court, where pursuing such cases has turn into difficult, partly, due to a legal doctrine generally known as qualified immunity. It protects officials, including police, from lawsuits for money arising from what they do in the middle of their work.

Police used a battering ram to get into Johnson’s garage, though she explained easy methods to open the door and broke ceiling tiles to get to the attic, in accordance with the lawsuit. She stood on considered one of her brand latest dining room chairs. They also broke off the top of a doll made to look similar to her, together with the glasses, ACLU of Colorado legal director Tim Macdonald said.

Johnson is black, however the lawsuit doesn’t allege that race plays a job, he added.

Macdonald said the best damage was done to Johnson’s sense of security in the house where she raised her three children alone, temporarily giving up Christmas and birthday gifts to have the option to afford them. She suffered from ulcers and had trouble sleeping, so she eventually moved to a different neighborhood.

“In our case, the harm was always about the mental and emotional harm caused to Ms. Johnson,” he said.

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A Memphis judge postpones state trial in Tire Nichols’ death until after the federal trial

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Nichols died in hospital in January 2023, three days after being brutally beaten by five Memphis officers now charged with second-degree murder

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A judge on Friday indefinitely postponed the state court trial of 4 former Memphis officers charged with second-degree murder in the fatal beating of Tire Nichols pending the conclusion of a federal court trial on civil rights charges.

Criminal Court Judge James Jones Jr. made the ruling after defense attorneys filed a motion asking him to remove the state trial from the calendar to avoid “parallel proceedings” that would impede officers’ right to defend themselves in each cases.

The decision got here after the trial of the officers accused of beating Nichols in reference to Nichols’ death was postponed from May 6 to September 9 to offer defense lawyers more time to effectively prepare their case. They say those preparations include reviewing 800 gigabytes of video, documents and other evidence presented to them by federal prosecutors.

A crowd gathers to recollect Tire Nichols during a candlelight vigil on the anniversary of his death, Jan. 7, 2024, in Memphis, Tennessee (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht, File)

Nichols died in hospital on January 10, 2023, three days after he was kicked, punched and hit with a police baton following a traffic stop. Police video shows five officers beating Nichols as he screamed at his mother just steps from his home. The footage also shows officers milling around and talking to one another while Nichols sits on the ground scuffling with his injuries.

The autopsy report concluded that Nichols died from blows to the head and the death was a homicide. The report described brain injuries, cuts and bruises to the head and other parts of the body.

Memphis’ police chief said the department couldn’t justify any reason for the traffic stop.

Nichols was black. Five of the officers are also black. They were fired for violating Memphis Police Department policy. Nichols’ death sparked outrage and calls for reform in Memphis and across the country.

Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith were charged in state court with second-degree murder and other crimes. They were also charged with federal civil rights violations related to the use of excessive force and obstruction of justice.

Mills pleaded guilty Nov. 2 to federal charges of excessive force and obstruction of justice and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, who advisable a 15-year prison sentence. His lawyer said he can even plead guilty in state court.

The remaining officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them in state and federal courts.

Michael Stengel, Haley’s attorney, noted during Friday’s hearing that the officers could face more severe punishment if convicted in federal court in comparison with state court. The officers face life in prison on the federal charges, and 15 to 25 years in prison for second-degree murder.

“Litigation economy and the ends of justice are best served by conducting a federal trial first,” the defense motion said.

Prosecutor Paul Hagerman said he agreed to postpone the state trial without setting a future date, provided all parties comply with quickly return to state court and set a brand new trial date if the federal trial doesn’t proceed.

Hagerman also said he spoke with Nichols’ family and so they agreed to a postponement of the state trial.

“They want justice for their son and they will see to it however long it takes,” Hagerman said. “They don’t see today as some sort of loss.”

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