Residents condemn Sheriff's hiring of former Tacoma officer involved in death of Manuel Ellis in Tacoma

Burbank resigned post as Thurston County Deputy today


Residents stormed the Thurston’s Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) regular meeting yesterday, April 2, to express disdain for the Sheriff's hiring of Christopher “Shane” Burbank as a Lateral Patrol Deputy. 

The appointment was announced on Monday by TCSO through a social media post.  This morning, Sheriff Derek Sanders announced in a press release that Burbank has since resigned from his post.

Community members protested Burbank's hiring due to his involvement in 2020 with the death of a Tacoma man,  Manuel “Manny” Ellis.  Burbank and another officer were acquitted of the second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, while their colleague was cleared of manslaughter charges.

TCSO described the lateral hire as “the end of a drought for TCSO” as the office has not had a lateral patrol deputy apply and pass all phases of the background process since 2021.

Looking back

The death of Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old black resident of Tacoma, made headlines in 2020 due to the magnitude of public interest in the case.

Ellis died on a sidewalk after three Tacoma officers allegedly subdued him with excessive force last March 3, 2020.

In an article from the Associated Press (AP), Burbank’s attorney said that the officers interrogated Ellis as he passed the patrol car after he allegedly attempted to get into a stranger’s car. The attorney said Ellis then became “fixated” on Burbank, giving expletive remarks and beating on the window.

The officers’ side argued that Ellis died from a lethal amount of methamphetamine in his system and a preexisting heart condition.

On the other hand, three witnesses testified that they saw no such thing but rather saw Burbank throwing open his passenger seat door and knocking Ellis down. Also, a video circulated online showed Ellis with his hands up in a surrender position as Burbank shot a Taser at his chest and his colleague wrapped an arm around his neck from behind.

Assistant Attorney General Kent Liu told jurors that Ellis did not die from an overdose but rather from oxygen starvation caused by the officers.

The jury cleared the three officers of all charges last December, the Associated Press reported.

Thurston community lashes out

Thurston County residents attended onsite and online to air sentiments regarding Burbank’s hiring.

“I think you can all presume that many of us here today are here because we are deeply concerned about the hiring of Christopher Burbank,” said Stephanie Scott, a commenter from Lacey.

“The public systems we give our money to in the name of protecting us and to serve our most vulnerable betrayed us in undeniable ways,” said commenter Malika Lamont.

“I also want you to be thinking about the fear that real people are experiencing right now because of Christopher Burbank's hiring… even if he's fired promptly, this has disintegrated so much trust for so many people,” said commenter Natalie Scott.

“Manny’s sister expressed the terror and re-traumatization brought upon her and her family when she moved away to Thurston County out of fear; now Christopher Burbank is patrolling the very city she fled to… it's incredibly frustrating, disappointing, truly horrifying to consider the fearful future that our county may hold for our community,” said commenter Arantxa Vasquez.

District 5 Commissioner Emily Clouse wrote on her social media that the BoCC has no authority over TCSO’s hiring and firing.

“To clarify a procedural question, the Board of County Commissioners does not have hiring/firing authority over the TCSO because our county’s Sheriff is an elected official with control over internal personnel decisions,” said Clouse.

A presentation from the Washington Association of County Officials states that the Office of the Sheriff is a constitutional office having exclusive powers and authority. These powers are not subject to the dictates of a Board of Commissioners-- they don’t work for county government; they are part of county government.

For the hiring process, the Civil Service Commission tests candidates’ fitness to work in the Sheriff's Office. Applicants who pass all tests are ranked by score on the Employment Eligibility List. Applicants on the lists are then processed through a vigorous background and reference check process.


4 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • JW

    Once accused always guilty apparently.

    Thursday, April 4 Report this

  • Claire

    Sanders should have known this would be controversial in the left-wing liberal bastion of Thurston County. Don't you dare ruffle the feathers of the Socialist "elites". He was acquitted. Period.

    Thursday, April 4 Report this

  • Olywelcomesall

    Nice coverage of the concern and anger of this mistake by Sheriff Sanders. Manuel Ellis was killed by the Standard Practices of Restraint used by Tacoma Police officers. Since they used the officially sanctioned standards the individual officers were found not guilty by the jury. Did they need to use standards because they escalated their confrontation with Ellis? That was not the question at trial. Why did they leave Tacoma Police? TCSO should have reviewed the case and reviewed the officers practice of escalating situations with citizens. Not a good look for any law enforcement agency.

    Friday, April 5 Report this

  • bobkat

    Two independent investigations found him (them) not culpable, AND he was found NOT GUILTY by a jury during a lengthy (and well reported) trial. Yet. . . . it is apparent that not knowing or understanding either the facts or the law will deter the uninformed. Alas, shades of the street mobs of the French Revolution

    Saturday, April 6 Report this