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A sign is displayed on May 27, 2021, at a memorial in Tacoma, Wash., where Manuel "Manny" Ellis died March 3, 2020, after he was restrained by police officers. Opening statements are expected to begin as early as Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, in the trial of the three officers charged with Ellis' death. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
HALLIE GOLDEN Associated Press
Published: 29 February 2024

The Washington state House overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday that would ban police from hog-tying suspects, a restraint technique that has long drawn concern because of the risk of suffocation.

“This practice is dehumanizing, and it’s dangerous,” said Democratic Rep. Sharlett Mena during the vote.

"And yet hog-tying is still authorized by a small number of jurisdictions in Washington.”

Manuel Ellis died in policy custody

The vote came nearly four years after Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, died in Tacoma, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Seattle, facedown with his hands and feet cuffed together behind him. The case became a touchstone for racial justice demonstrators in the Pacific Northwest.

“He was hog-tied by police. He pleaded he couldn’t breathe, and he died in the heart of our community,” Mena said.

The bill, which was previously passed by the Senate, will need to go back to that body for verification before heading to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

Bill receives bipartisan approval

Republican Rep. Gina Mosbrucker said while there were still concerns from her party about smaller jurisdictions that might not have the money to start using alternative restraints, she supports the measure.

“I feel like by this bill passing, for me Madam Speaker, we’re starting to amend that relationship between law enforcement and the community,” she said.

The U.S. Department of Justice has recommended against the practice since at least 1995 to avoid deaths in custody. The attorney general’s office in Washington recommended against using hog-tying in its model use-of-force policy released in 2022. At least four local agencies continue to permit it, according to policies they submitted to the attorney general’s office that year.

Ellis was walking home in March 2020 when he passed a patrol car with Tacoma police officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, who are white. There are conflicting accounts of what happened next, but Ellis was ultimately shocked, beaten and officers wrapped a hobble restraint device around his legs and linked it to his handcuffs behind his back, according to a probable cause statement filed by the Washington attorney general’s office.

A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide caused by lack of oxygen. Collins, Burbank and a third officer, Timothy Rankine, were charged with murder or manslaughter. Defense attorneys argued Ellis’ death was caused by methamphetamine intoxication and a heart condition, and a jury acquitted them in December.

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