Manuel Elijah Ellis Hearing – February 3, 2021, 9 pm Eastern

Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Manuel Elijah Ellis

SPEAKERS

  • Rapporteur Marjorie Cohn
  • Commissioner Mr. Arturo Fournier Facio
  • Commissioner Prof. Osamu Niikura
  • Ms. Jamika Scott, friend of the Ellis family
  • Ms Monet Carter-Mixon, sister of Manuel Elijah Ellis
  • Mr James Bible, attorney for the family

Marjorie Cohn  00:44

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the hearings of the International Commission of Inquiry on systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States. These hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts of the unjustified killings and maimings of Black individuals, by police officers in the United States before an international panel of human rights experts. We now begin the hearing in the case of Manuel Elijah Ellis. My name is Marjorie Cohn and I am the rapporteur for this hearing. Presiding over this hearing today, our commissioners are Arturo Fournier of Costa Rica and Commissioner Osamu Niikura of Japan. The witnesses for this hearing are Jamika Scott, and James Bible. There will be 50 minutes for this hearing. The witnesses will testify, followed by a period of questions from the commissioners, I will call time at the 30 minute mark, and the 45 minute mark, please excuse my interruptions, commissioners will need and the quota. I now present you the first witness Jamika Scott. Jamika Scott, please confirm your name.

Jamika Scott  02:06

My name is Jamika Scott.

Marjorie Cohn  02:08

Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Jamika Scott  02:16

I do

Marjorie Cohn  02:17

You may begin.

Jamika Scott  02:21

So I just want to start with kind of context. I learned of the killing of Manuel Ellis late in May of 2020. I had heard prior to it that the police had killed someone but I didn’t, I never knew the person’s name. And I didn’t really hear much about it afterwards. We I work, I organize with a group in Tacoma called the Tacoma Action Collective. And we were approached by Manuel’s sister Monet. And she came to us and just let us know that her brother had been killed by the police and that she felt that she wasn’t getting any answers, that it was being covered up and that she knew something was off and she needed help because she wasn’t receiving any help and didn’t know what was going on. And from there things just kind of kept taking what felt like a more sinister, and sinister tone. We learned that it, you know his death had been ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, but that information wasn’t shared publicly with nearly anyone not even city officials. It just more and more that the official police account just felt, what we were hearing from Monet, what we were seeing with the medical examiner’s report and then eventually what came out of witness videos, it just none of it lined up with what the police were saying and it just was a very very large discrepancy.

They said that you know, Manuel wasn’t wasn’t, put in a chokehold they said that he was banging on people’s cars trying to get into the passenger side car door of cars or passing cars, and and not only did we end up hearing from one person who witnessed this, but we heard from another person who witnessed it and both of them said the same thing — that for all, everything seemed fine until the police made contact with Manuel by hitting him with the car door. And so I just really want to speak to, there. There are a lot of facts on the case. You know, there’s there’s an investigation, there’s lots of paper, so I really want to spend my time speaking on the fact that of just what I’ve seen the family of Manny go through in the time since I have been working closely with them to kind of help, with the Tacoma action collective, help them find, you know, support in the community as a way of navigating something that, you know, nobody ever wants to have to navigate. And it’s torn this family apart. There’s no faith in our public systems. There’s no trust in public safety. And it’s really you know, and as the longer that this has gone on, there’s been no justice. These officers, officers that were involved in his death, were still patrolling our streets, our city’s just lost confidence in the police. They’ve lost trust that we’re safe, that if we are really in danger that we have people to call, and you could literally see this life being drained from this family, you know, that somebody was taken from them so violently.

And that if the persons who did this to him were to face any justice, that it’d be precedent setting. That’s how, that’s how unlikely, and how insurmountable the task of getting justice is, for a family member who’s been killed by the police. The police in our communities have so much leeway, they have so much power, they act as if that as if they are above the law, and they act as if they are above the community, above reproach. And so it really leaves us in this position. And and I’ve watched it happening with Manny Ellis’s family of, where do we go from here? How do we how do we survive in a, in a place that is often belittling and oppressive and violent and fatal?

It leaves us in this place where there’s no healing. We’re broken, generations of us are emotionally tired. Our bodies are weathered, and they and it causes us physical illness. It causes us lifelong ailments and diseases. It causes us generational trauma that we are passing on. We Black people in the city of Tacoma, Black people in the state, Black people in this country and all throughout the diaspora. We are traumatized. We live in a constant state of PTSD, we are hyper vigilant, we are fearful, we are anxious, we are depressed. And it’s going to continue to keep being this way, though, as long as there’s no intervention. And it can’t be that even is just one officer who gets prosecuted and convicted. It has to be a sweeping intervention that comes in and we can’t. Us as a country now where we are. Everybody is too worried about their side. They’re worried about you know, the right the left. But this really is truly an issue that affects everybody. It doesn’t just affect Black people. It does affect everyone. When we do what’s best for the people who have the least, it impacts everyone, it makes everybody’s quality of life better. So I just what I’ve seen this last, you know, we’re coming up on a year since Manuel’s murder. And we’re coming up on just under a year since I met Monet and her family. And just the stress that we’ve all been under, the surveillance of the family, there’s surveillance of local activists, witnesses were afraid to come forward, families are afraid to speak out.

And the continued violence of the Tacoma police department in particular. It just leaves us in this, in this place where if something if something isn’t if, if no one intervenes, it’s just going to keep getting worse. The chasm between police and community is too deep. And policing in and of itself is oppressive and we need a different system of public safety. And forgive me for if I’m rambling, if I’m off topic, if I’m not sticking to the theme of what we’re we’re supposed to be talking about here. I wasn’t prepared to speak. So I’m kind of talking off the cuff. But yeah, so that’s just, that’s kind of what I wanted to share that this type of violence. It tears holes in families and communities. And it’s not just one family, it’s what happens to one family in this community, it happens to all of us. And it happens, it has lasting echoes throughout generations. And I know I personally am tired of kind of living in this constant state of fear knowing that of all the things in this world that could take me out, a police officer might be one of them. And his, you know, the statistics of it might even make it more likely than other things that might kill me. So that’s, I think that that’s all I would like to share unless there’s anything else that I should be talking about.

Marjorie Cohn  10:57

Thank you, Ms. Scott for your testimony, which is extremely relevant to this hearing and to the Commission’s inquiry. So we thank you for that statement. Commissioners Fournier and Niikura, I now present to you the second witness, James Bible, James Bible, please confirm your name. Mr. Bible.

James Bible  11:27

Yes, James Bible, J A M E S, B I B L E, name is confirmed.

Marjorie Cohn  11:33

Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

James Bible  11:41

Absolutely.

Marjorie Cohn  11:42

 You may begin.

James Bible  11:44

Do you want to start with the video? Or would you like me to just add or which direction would you like to hit there?

Marjorie Cohn  11:51

Do you want to say a few words to introduce the video and then we can see it? And then you can follow up with comments or would you prefer to just go straight into the video?

James Bible  12:02

Well, I guess if I were to say anything before the video, what I would say is the acts committed upon the body of Manuel Ellis are reminiscent of a lynching? And I say that because in our nation’s history, sometimes troubling nation’s history. Black bodies have been seen dangling for from trees, struggling to breathe and in this particular instance, Manuel Ellis, walking home from a corner store, with doughnuts in hand, was assaulted by officers, thrown to the ground and choked, tased. His hands were up in the air like this. He was beaten repeatedly. He was eventually hogtied. And as he was saying, I can’t breathe, sir. They placed a spit mask over his head. And they watched him breathe his very last breath. The imagery behind these pictures that we now have not just from the three independent videos, but not just from the independent witnesses, but now from other things that were collected by officers and additional videos that some don’t know we have, makes this absolutely reminiscent of a lynching.

And the photos that sometimes people would take afterwards where people are just standing around the body staring at it. And that’s what happened here. And after he breathed his last breath, the same officers worked hard with their keyboards and the trust that we give them in their badge to try to recreate something different here, to try to message in a way that they were actually the heroes, that they were stopping a violent human being, that they were doing everything that they needed to do to just to survive on that night. And they almost got away with it. They were put temporarily on leave. They were brought back. We have text messages from the individual officers that have killed before to these particular officers saying, you guys are studs. The whole second floor backs you. We have this information in our possession now. Thankfully, Monet, the sister of Manuel Ellis, flat out didn’t believe what happened, and didn’t believe what the officers rendition of events were. And people like Jamika were prepared to stand by Monet.

When I first came into this particular case, I was actually in the hospital. I was in the hospital towards the end of May watching what was happening in the streets of Minnesota, watching what happened to Breonna Taylor. When I started to get calls on my cell phone, and messages from people that thought it was really important that somebody do something about Manuel Ellis. By this time, the officers were already back at work. And everybody thought that this was over. About a few days, a few days after I got out of the hospital, we went to work on this case. And what we learned was staggering. And the witnesses that we were able to locate through social justice activists and people that were willing to come forward. Well, it was dynamic. Because every single one said that Manuel Ellis had done nothing wrong on that particular day. That he seemed as though he was just having a friendly conversation with officers when they took their door, slammed it against his body, threw him to the ground, started to beat him. And you know, the rest. Because we’ve said, every witness, that’s not a police officer says that that was exactly what happened. Now, the thing about it is, none of those witnesses were ever interviewed by the, by law enforcement in this particular case. They claimed that there was going to be an independent investigation that was done by the sheriff’s office was completely backed by the Tacoma police department.

And  it wasn’t until we were able to start coming out with first the demand is that the state of Washington itself actually conduct an independent investigation and that they even started to think about these other witnesses. And we know that because as we started talking to the independent witnesses, we located and hadn’t released their videos to the public or them. And we’re standing and talking to a couple of these witnesses in an undisclosed location. And we received word that police are actually starting to look for them. So for three months, they know the truth about this, that there were these independent witnesses and they knew how to contact them, but they never did. And perhaps even more importantly, in terms of the cover up here, is they knew that they had Ring video of their own where they could hear the words I can’t breathe, sir, coming from Manuel Ellis, from Manuel, and they knew what the response was by the officers because that was also captured in Ring video. And that response was: Shut the fuck up. Which by the way, in my research is not the first time that a Tacoma police officer has actually said something like that after harming someone. The same officer that actually wrote to these officers saying you guys are studs actually had a lawsuit against him in federal court. Because he had shot two people in his career, one had died and one was fortunate enough to live, on two separate occasions, and the one that lived actually said that after that officer shot him and he was screaming out in pain. He said, Shut the fuck up.

This moment in time, what happened to Manuel Ellis is an absolute human rights violation. And it’s a repeated theme, by the Tacoma police department. It’s covered up by other departments and other seemingly neutral investigatory agencies. And the only reason why we know more in this case is because of social justice advocates and then we learned so much more because of the state of Washington’s semi separate investigation. But I’ll tell you as a person that does civil rights work and high level criminal defense work I have never seen a case where there were three independent witnesses and three separate videos all of which say the same thing where prosecutors failed to prosecute quickly. It’s almost been a year. Thank you.

Marjorie Cohn  20:25

Thank you. Can we play the video now please, Charlotte.

James Bible (Video)  20:33

From New York, to Texas, to Minnesota. to Tacoma, Washington. The final words of far too many have been, I can’t breathe. On March 3 2020. Manuel Ellis was feeling good about his life. He played the drums in his church choir, something that he did three times a week. He talked to his mother told her how much he loved her, told her how wonderful church was that day, hung up the phone and then decided to go get some snacks from a local corner store. And as he was walking home from that local corner store, officers for no actual apparent reason approached him in a car. They called him over. He walked on over. After a brief conversation, one officer immediately took his door and slammed it against Manuel Ellis, throwing him to the ground. After he was on the ground, the other officer came around and started to hit and punch him as well. Manuel Ellis, at some point, his arms were up in the air as a sign of I’m not trying to do you any harm. And at the same time his arms are up in the air like this, an officer’s arms are wrapped around his neck and a taser was pointed at his chest. One shot, two shots, a person behind that police car actually screamed oh no stop, stop, just arrest him. The officers just kept doing what they did. One hit, two hit, three hits, tased, choked. We now know that eventually he was hogtied meaning his hands were cuffed to his feet and he was left on his stomach. And as he was saying I can’t breathe, sir. They further restricted his air after having choked and tased him by putting a spit mask over his head.

As the officers heard him say I can’t breathe, sir. Their response was shut the fuck up. Manuel Ellis died on that street corner. But after these officers participated in his murder, they sought to cover it up. They sought to redefine what happened. And they almost got away with it. They made claims of excited delirium. They said he had attacked their car and their vehicle. He said they said that he had lifted them up and thrown them to the ground. They disseminated those claims to newspapers, to any media that would actually listen. It took three months to figure out some amount of the truth, some amount of the truth. You see the entity that actually was in charge of investigating what happened on that day was the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, a neighbor to the Tacoma police department. These two departments conspired, there’s no other way to put it, conspired to cover up what occurred and misrepresent it, what happened on that fateful night. Thankfully, due to dedicated social justice activists, attorneys that care, and Manuel Ellis’s baby sister, we were able to locate three independent witnesses. And each one of those witnesses made it clear that Manuel Ellis had done nothing wrong. On that day, we were able to locate three separate, independent videos. And each video showed exactly what those officers did. And that’s when we started to demand an independent investigation in the state of Washington, because we absolutely knew absolutely knew that if this investigation was left to local jurisdictions, justice would not prevail.

The State of Washington did take on the investigation, after several months of a cover up by the Tacoma Police Department and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office. And while we learned much more in terms of information, including that Manuel Ellis was actually hogtied, and that Pierce County Sheriff’s had authentically participated in his murder as well. The State of Washington needs to go further. All cases in the state of Washington involving police actions that kill other human beings need to be investigated by an independent agency. That independent agency should have full subpoena power. That independent agency should have absolute access to all police records. That independent agency should be the agency that actually prosecute the officers in the event that the actions are chargeable. In Manuel Ellis’s case, these officers were civilians, they would have been charged with homicide already. It is hard to fathom why there would be such a remarkable delay. It’s almost as if the powers that be are trying to find any reason possible to not file charges. The ultimate truth is that when you have three independent witnesses, you have three separate videos. And you have a medical examiner that calls this homicide. Murder charges should be filed. Black Lives Matter. from New York to Texas.

Marjorie Cohn  28:04

Mr. Bible, would you like to add some comments to that video, please?

James Bible  28:11

And I think that what I said previously, and what the video says speaks for what my position is ultimately, we’re now pushing for prosecution of these officers and also those that covered up this incident. Through the Washington State Attorney General’s office, there’s been a remarkable delay, frankly. There’s no reason for the delay at this stage. There’s more than enough information.

Marjorie Cohn  28:48

Thank you very much. It is now 28 minutes into the hearing. Commissioner Niikura, would you like to ask questions of the witnesses?

Osamu Niikura  28:58

Yeah, thank you. I have several questions about What is the reaction of the politicians in this in those cases, such as the lynching or .. practices, or misconduct by police officers?

James Bible  29:23

Well, I’m sorry, could you repeat the question, please?

Osamu Niikura  29:26

Yeah. Do you have some reaction from the politicians, in those cases, police misconduct and abrasive after arranging?

James Bible  29:43

Unfortunately, in our unfortunately in our nation’s history, Black people have been repeatedly lynched without action whatsoever. Law enforcement essentially has been and recent killings of Black human beings that have, were unarmed is an extension of that, and Manuel Ellis in particular, is a personified sort of example of a lynching, it’s late at night. All the officers were in a place where they had absolute control. And then they were able to write things away and present that person as the wrongdoer. So historically, not a lot of anything has been done in terms of lynchings in the United States of America, dating back to the inception of this country. In fact, we’re only now realistically start starting to look at lynchings from a more straightforward sort of perspective, that doesn’t glamorize the act.

Marjorie Cohn  30:58

Mr. Bible, were there any, was there any reaction to this case from the politicians?

James Bible  31:04

Right now there is. reaction in that there’s legislative action in place at the moment. That would include a bill that has been put forward in the state legislature or scheduled to be put forward in relation to independence in prosecutors or prosecution being ultimately that the state that would prosecute officers that commit misconduct. Unfortunately, given the processes that we have, there are significant opponents on the other side that are seeking to water down that legislation, and give local prosecutors concurrent jurisdiction, which we’ve maintained that ultimately concurrent jurisdiction will do damage to independence of the state in terms of making decisions. One politician, the mayor, to comment did eventually say that these officers should be fired and charged after additional videos came out. But frankly, most politicians have done nothing in relation to this. We haven’t seen any authentic changes at this moment. The city manager for the city of Tacoma actually controls whether or not these officers were fired. And she has taken no action whatsoever.

Marjorie Cohn  32:35

Commissioner Niikura, do you have additional questions?

Osamu Niikura  32:38

Yes. Do you have some idea to raising the problem before the UN Council of human rights or some other international organization for human rights?

James Bible  32:56

I think that this particular issue should be in front of anybody who would listen, including any entity or organization that can actually do something to protect human rights.

Osamu Niikura  33:15

Do you have some effort to make raises the question in a very concrete way. Some, several cases?

James Bible  33:31

Do I have any input to make? Well, I can tell you in terms of in terms of the Manuel Ellis case, specifically, or cases like that, like Manuel Ellis in general. Thank you. Yeah, I guess what I would say is that I have I definitely have input for for many of these cases, because I’ve been directly linked to, unfortunately, several instances in which individuals have been killed by law enforcement. When Manuel Ellis’s incident had occurred, I would remember telling someone that I had before noon, talked with five or six different families that had lost loved ones as a result of police violence. Many of whom were clearly following please commands at the time that they were shot and killed.

Marjorie Cohn  34:45

Commissioner Niikura, do you have additional questions at this time?

Osamu Niikura  34:49

Oh, no thank you, hopefully, at this minute.

James Bible  34:52

Thank you.

Marjorie Cohn  34:54

Thank you, Commissioner Fournier, would you like to ask questions of either witness?

Arturo Fournier Facio  35:00

Yes, thank you, Attorney Bible. We are listening. This International Commission is listening as you are required. And that’s why it has been promoted. And we hope to be of assistance in order to serve justice and to support human rights all over the world. I wanted to ask you a question in the documents we were sent. And you said something of the sort now, the Tacoma mayor Victoria Woodards was requested that all officers supposedly there is there will be fired and prosecuted, something happened where they held accountable?

James Bible  35:50

No officer to date has been held accountable. In fact, the only thing that happened once we started to raise these issues, again, is that they were put back on administrative leave and tracking what they’ve been doing with while on administrative leave. It looks like they’ve taken a few vacations. So they’ve been getting paid. They’ve been on vacation. They’ve been backed by the department. The Union responded to Mayor Woodards by saying that her actions were actually inappropriate and attempted to get her sanctioned. The city of Tacoma’s structure is one where the mayor does not have the power to remove police officers or fire police officers. Power rests principally within the city manager. And the city manager is somebody that was formerly a prosecutor for the city of Tacoma and we think has too many links to the city of Tacoma police department to actually do anything authentic in relation to in relation to holding officers accountable. I will say that there was an incident a few years ago in the city of Tacoma, where an officer actually got fired for failing to use force for failing to shoot at somebody. And everybody lived in that circumstance. But he was actually fired. He filed a lawsuit. I’m imagining that it was resolved via settlement because it didn’t go all the way through the court process. But that’s something that happened there.

Arturo Fournier Facio  37:31

What do you think it should be needed, for this? Because also, I’m reading that the governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, said that it will be at, that they will conduct an independent investigation? And how come if these two high rank officials and politicians were trying to do something, and nothing has been done?

James Bible  38:01

All right. So so what I what I can say about the governor, and the governor’s office is back in June, we were having having an active conversation about why this case needed to be taken over by the state of Washington in terms of investigation. And, frankly, it didn’t feel like they wanted to. But as more and more information came out, it was clear that they didn’t have a choice. They did conduct an investigation, which is actually how we learned. And I would say semi independent investigation. But with that investigation, that’s how we actually learned that Manuel Ellis was hogtied by the officers. And then we learned that a fifth officer was involved that nobody had ever mentioned in terms of the suffocation of Manuel Ellis. So there was something learned. But justice is still being delayed and ultimately denied at this stage, because they haven’t yet acted on the prosecution that would have been acted with any other human being as a potential perpetrator, probably about five to six months ago.

Arturo Fournier Facio  39:15

So the independent civilian external review or the administrative wasn’t conducted

James Bible  39:25

Yeah, it was a it ended up being a forced sort of thing. I think they accepted it be grudgingly and now I think, frankly, that everybody’s scared to move forward and do anything with it. Because in my heart, I feel like people are ambitious. And when we’re in a space where we’re authentically talking about issues that tend to disproportionately impact Black and brown people. Those things are thrown to the side and they were told That, well, ultimately, we need to move forward in this particular direction. And for the most part, this is better for you in the long run. So we have seemingly seemingly liberal folks that are in a place where I feel like they’re willing to sacrifice some of the things that many Black and brown people are concerned about, for what they think is a greater, more progressive, good, um, with without necessarily recognizing our, our humanity and how it’s being lost. So it’s, it’s, I’m struggling with that, frankly, because I’ve been in a lot of meetings, including meetings yesterday with the attorney general about why this case needs to be prosecuted. And we haven’t seen anything yet.

Arturo Fournier Facio  40:53

So that sort of investigation didn’t go. But what about the officers being charged in court for a crime or manslaughter or at least?

James Bible  41:06

there’s been no charge. And that really is what’s at the heart of heart of this issue is now that they’ve conducted their semi independent investigation. They have not filed any charges, they have more than enough information. And I feel like the officers are getting what I can only describe as remarkable deference in relation to what happened. And they’re trying to find any reason not to charge when the evidence is very clear that a charging decision is appropriate.

Arturo Fournier Facio  41:44

But not even with the three witnesses, and the three separate videos?

James Bible  41:52

Not with any of it. And not even with the obstruction that was present in terms of spokespeople standing in front of microphones and saying that Manuel Ellis was actually the aggressor, when they actually knew that he was not based on physical evidence and otherwise.

Arturo Fournier Facio  42:15

And a civil case?

James Bible  42:17

The civil case will will likely occur, we did file a tort claim, which is the initiation of a civil case against the city. And we’ll be filing another one against the county shortly. But ultimately, we’ve been focused on getting these officers charged, frankly, because on a lot of levels, the trauma is real. And so many people have paid the price for, for their investigation. And, and I have a little seven year old child running down my hall right now. And I just want to make sure that he’s safe in the world. And I can’t I can’t think about anything else. Other than that is is the safety of people who are just trying to survive. And it’s heartbreaking, frankly, and I’m thankful that he sort of international organization would actually step into this, because our humanity is not recognize the united states of the United States right now. As Black folks as Black people, no matter how much we say, Black Lives Matter. The power structure here, continuously continuously tries to show us that we don’t.

Arturo Fournier Facio  43:49

We are doing our best that we will continue to learn our best. I can read that Mrs. Monet Ellis is is present or at least listening. Please receive our condolences and our hard feeling sympathy for you and your all your family. Thank you.

Monet Carter-Mixon  44:15

I appreciate that.

Arturo Fournier Facio  44:19

One last question was was there any media coverage? And was it independent at objective?

James Bible  44:30

Media coverage has increased dramatically since we came out and started talking about everything, and the videos of course had an impact on media coverage as well. There wasn’t another article about this as recently as this morning in which they, in the Seattle Times in which they highlight many of the inconsistencies that the officers actually were present, in the officers’ claims in comparison to the videos because once we got the videos, they clearly don’t match anything that the officers claim happened. CNN paid attention to this, the national CBS network, the National Kane, our national, NBC network paid attention to it as well, but you know, ultimately, we still find ourselves in the same place until there’s any actual action.

Jamika Scott  45:28

I would just to add, like, oftentimes, especially here in Tacoma, the newspaper considers the police a trusted source. So whatever the police said, say, and who knows how many times that they’ve said something happened that was actually just kind of another piece of their cover up in a different case, but they vary. The police are often the people they go to first, and the police set the narrative. So as soon as, as soon as the Tacoma police, as soon as the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department came out, saying, you know, excited delirium, he was, that Manny was the aggressor and so on. That was not only did we have to battle to get some political, you know, some administrative entity to take over this investigation. But we also then had to battle this public, you know, this character assassination of Manny and so not only are we having to one, fight for justice, we’re also having like James has mentioned, we’re also having just a fight for that humanity, for people to see that. There’s no reason somebody should be walking to get snacks and end up dead at the hands of a public safety officer. But time and time again, that’s what gets put in the news. They show mug shots of Black people, rather, you know, like the the police officers get these nice professional photos. And they you know, they find any old picture so that the media, even the outlets, that you have a handful of outlets who try to do some fair and balanced reporting. But for the most part, they go to the police for the story, the police give them the story they want told. And then that’s the running story, regardless of what the truth is, at a certain point, it doesn’t matter what the truth is, if you can’t prove it.

And as you can see, in Manny’s case, even when you can prove it, you’re still battling against that. That notion that the police are always right, that the police are always upstanding, and truthful and honest and transparent when time and time again, Black people and I would even argue again, because yes, it’s Black people, but it’s a lot of people have experienced brutality at the hands of the police. So the fact that there’s this ideal idea that the police just are honest and truthful, even in the face of evidence against that is amazing. And so that’s one of the big things that we also have to combat against is just how you get people to see that regardless of you know, the person’s struggle, that there are so many people who are dead at the hands of the police that didn’t need to be dead, and none of them deserve to be dead. So it’s that there’s this sense that because we’re Black, because we’re poor, because we’re othered, because we’re dark skinned,  because we’re big, because we’re loud, whatever they think that whatever, you know, because we’re not educated enough, because we’re we like rap music, because we our pants are sagging, because our butts are big, whatever, whatever they think of when they think of their stereotypical stereotypical Black people. That is what they use to justify this. There’s nobody on the side of police, there’s nobody on the side of, of, you know, justice, that is sitting there that is actually coming out and saying, This is wrong.

You know, they want us to believe that there’s only a few bad apples. But really, it doesn’t matter if there are only a few bad apples, if nobody is culling those apples from the bunch. Everybody’s tainted, and they’re all complicit and, and it shows it by the fact that, you know, James mentioned there was a fifth officer, that officer was allowed to go back to work he was, he’s a person who participated in a murder, and he was allowed to come back into our communities where he could have done it again. And so it’s, we live in this constant fear that people who can come to work with an attitude that day that ends in my death are the ones who have the guns who have the power and who have the structures to back them. I think only one officer in this entire state has ever been prosecuted for any type of crime committed in the, on duty. So we’re facing like, what feels like insurmountable odds. So I’m also very appreciative that you guys are taking the time to listen to us and and you, hopefully that we just need some there just needs to be change. It’s it’s devastating and people are traumatized.

Arturo Fournier Facio  50:08

Thank you very much and, you know, one last question, we have been speaking about videos, have you been able to obtain a video release from the police or they argue that they didn’t have a body camera or some sort?

James Bible  50:26

Law enforcement in Tacoma had no body camera, and they had no in car dash cameras either. What we were able to get in terms of cameras was cell phone, video, and then Ring video from one of the houses near the scene. Since this incident, they’ve announced that they’re going to have body cam this year. So it’s something that they didn’t have before. I will say that we’ve made several public disclosure requests, and much of the information that we did receive was highly redacted. So they tried to keep a lot of information from us, much of which we have now, I also think it’s worthy of mentioned that the city of Tacoma once we started to come out with this information, spent a whole lot of money, a tremendous amount of funds investigating those social justice activists that actually paid attention to this case, paid attention to what happened and then sought to assist in collecting information. They marches, made sure that this story, this event, this lynching, didn’t go unnoticed, so they were more interested in spending money monitoring those folks than actually addressing justice issues here.

Marjorie Cohn  51:57

Thank you, Mr. Bible. Thank you, Miss Scott. And thank you Monet Carter Mixon for your –

Charlotte Kates  52:02

Forgive me, Professor Cohn. My apologies for the interruption. Miss Carter Mixon did just indicate that she wanted to say a few words. I know we’re at the end of time, but would it be okay for her to do that?

Marjorie Cohn  52:15

Absolutely. We would love to hear from you. Please go ahead. Well, first of all, I just would like to swear you though, please confirm your name.

Monet Carter-Mixon  52:29

Oh, sorry. Franzia Carter Mixon, but I go by Monet.

Marjorie Cohn  52:33

Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Monet Carter-Mixon  52:40

Yes,

Marjorie Cohn  52:42

You may begin.

Monet Carter-Mixon  52:45

So I didn’t plan on talking, um, because having to like hear all of this stuff repeatedly, every couple weeks or so is it’s gotten really hard for me and my mental health. But I’m doing this just because I’m looking at some of the the comments or questions that people have about what’s going on here in Tacoma. Tacoma is extremely corrupt. I’ve lived here my whole entire life. And before Black people were being caught on video getting lynched by the police, I had to instilled fear to not call them. They over police our communities, and they mess with us for no reason. And I had been saying this since my brother was killed, that they targeted my brother. I know my brother, we had a very close connection, and all those things that they said that he did, or he was doing, and what they thought was justifiable enough to kill him. It didn’t add up. And it wasn’t my brother. People here are very corrupt. Our officials are corrupt. Our police system is completely jacked up and corrupt. And they literally tried to cover up my brother’s murder. This is a straight up cover up like my brother’s human rights were violated. But this is like my scream for help for someone something whatever power any of you guys may have to please come here and look into what actually happened to my brother.

My family did not get records request approved until Fox News and the Seattle Times have their lawyers send records requests to the state. And that was in December 30 on December 30 of 2020 was when we receive that so all this information of a fifth officer being involved their names, the Pierce County Sheriff’s officer that helped put my brother in a hobble and they were the ones that were supposed to be investigating my brother’s case. Like this whole, all of these things that have came out just recently came out because of people that are bigger than me and us here in Washington. And it’s so obviously not big enough, because the right people still haven’t came knocking on our doors trying to figure out what in the world actually happened. And this is my cry for help. If you can do something, please, if you can call somebody if you know anybody.

I know there was a person in the comments talking about I-940. There were literally, there was literally nothing put in place for I-940 to work. There was nothing at all. There was no investigative team setup, there was no family liaison. We had never been contacted by a family liaison until the governor took or told the state patrol to investigate what happened to my brother, there is no accountability with I-940. All of I 940 was broken by both Tacoma Police Department and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office for that alone. They shouldn’t even be allowed to investigate any murder and any any type of violation of I-940 that Pierce County Sheriff’s Office has done within the past two to three years that needs to be investigated, looked into because I’m telling you, there’s something wrong here. My brother’s dead. And there’s nothing that I can do about that now besides get justice for him and make sure that this doesn’t happen to anybody else. And I’m in fear that this is going to happen again. We’ve had an officer run over a crowd of people that were out, drag racing, and people are justifying the fact that this officer ran over five to six people. They’re justifying that they’re saying that it’s okay. There’s been nothing that’s happened. This is going to happen again. And I’m afraid it’s going to be worse this time. That’s all I have to say. Thank you guys for letting me speak.

Marjorie Cohn  56:51

Thank you so much for that testimony. And we really appreciate your coming forward. And hopefully, these commission hearings and the report we will produce will shine a light on your case and many others unfortunately, similar to this case, both internationally and within the United States. Thank you again. This concludes the hearing of the case of Manuel Ellis. Hearings will resume tomorrow.

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