During the trial against Matthew Collins, Christopher Burbank, and Timothy Rankine, who are facing first-degree manslaughter charges for failing to intervene on behalf of Ellis, expert testimonies this week have raised doubts about the defense’s claim that Ellis died from methamphetamine in his system. The Pierce County Medical Examiner ruled Ellis’ death a homicide due to being restrained by the officers.
Forensic Pathologist Dr. Roger Mitchell, a former chief medical examiner, testified that while methamphetamine was a contributing factor, the main cause of Ellis’ death was the violent altercation and subdual by the officers. Mitchell stated that the injuries sustained by Ellis were inconsistent with a drug overdose. An attorney representing one of the officers argued that Ellis “killed himself by resisting police officers.”
Forensic Audio Analyst David Hallimore, who has 37 years of experience as a police officer, testified on the videos and transcripts from the incident. Hallimore stated that Ellis voiced at least seven times that he couldn’t breathe. The defense disputed whether any witnesses or the officers themselves would have been able to hear these distress signals. The officers claimed they didn’t hear any signals of distress but instead heard growling and “animal-like noises” before Ellis stopped breathing.
Collins and Burbank are also facing an additional second-degree murder charge for unlawful detainment and assault. The trial continues as the expert testimonies cast doubt on the defense’s claim regarding Ellis’ cause of death.