Three Tacoma police officers face criminal charges: Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the charges today related to the killing of Manuel Ellis in March of last year. The AG filed charges against Officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins for second-degree murder and Officer Timothy Rankine for first-degree manslaughter. "If convicted, the standard sentencing range for second-degree murder with no prior criminal history is 10 to 18 years in prison. The standard range for first-degree manslaughter with no prior criminal history is 6.5 to 8.5 years. The maximum sentence for both offenses is life in prison," writes the AG's office. "Warrants have been issued for the three officers’ arrest."
The AG's office goes on to write: "This is the first time the Washington Attorney General’s Office has criminally charged police officers for the unlawful use of deadly force, and just the second time homicide charges have been filed in Washington against law enforcement officers since Washingtonians adopted Initiative 940 in November 2018."
The AG's declaration includes a very disturbing accounting of the actions that led to Ellis's death: While Ellis walked home from a 7-11 holding a bag of donuts and water, Burbank and Collins stopped and tackled him, then repeatedly punched his head. Collins applied a lateral vascular neck restraint—which the Washington State Legislature banned this year—before subjecting Ellis to a taser and additional force from backup Officer Rankine. Ellis told Rankine that he could not breathe multiple times while Rankine restrained him and increased pressure onto his back. An additional officer then placed a spit hood over Ellis's head, despite the hood's brand clearly stating, “DO NOT USE on anyone that is...having difficulty breathing." (A spit hood is "a fabric hood that...covers a person’s head and is meant to prevent the person from transmitting fluids," writes the AG.) While Ellis pleaded that he could not breathe, Rankine told him that "if you’re talking to me, you can breathe just fine."
Ellis was declared dead at the scene: The Pierce County Medical Examiner determined Ellis’s death was a homicide "with oxygen deprivation caused by physical restraint as the primary cause, and methamphetamine intoxication and heart disease as contributing factors," reports the Seattle Times.
Officers Burbank and Collins claim Ellis randomly attacked them, which caused them to restrain him, but the AG's evidence doesn't support the cops' story.
In other news around the region, it looks like Seattle was the fastest-growing big city in America in 2020: Clearly, people saw Fox News's apocalyptic coverage of Seattle last year and thought, "I gotta move there." Gene Balk's new column in the Seattle Times reveals "Seattle had a net gain of about 16,400 residents, hitting a total population of 769,700. That pencils out to a growth rate of 2.2% last year." Among the 50 biggest US cities, that increase made Seattle #1 in growth.
An asterisk on that data: It captures trends from July 2019 to July 2020, so we'll have to wait a bit before knowing if the growth kept up or slowed down post-CHOP. Still, this is more evidence that the so-called Seattle exodus, which analysts and Eastside newscasters feverishly suggested happened after Big Tech went remote last March, was a load of malarkey.
We guess we're baseball fans now:
Biden says he's going to release the results of the investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 virus, which many scientists still say was unlikely to have originated in a Chinese lab—though the Chinese government's lack of transparency is not much help.
Former House Speaker and incurable weenie Paul Ryan will make a speech tonight warning the GOP to stop following their dark lord Donald Trump into the bowels of hell: Unfortunately it won't be anywhere near that interesting, and since he's too cowardly to even mention Trump by name. Expect him to fall flat on his stupid, weenie face.
You're a winner, Abbey Bugenske! Ohio's found its million-dollar Vax-a-Million lottery winner. We still can't believe this thing is called "Vax-a-Million."
Yesterday, artist Paul Rucker dropped an op-ed in Artnet detailing his experience with racial discrimination as the first Black male arts program manager at Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture. Rucker says he enjoyed his job with "excellent performance reviews" for several years until new director Vincent E. Kitch came onboard in 2011. Then, he says he "felt the dynamic in the office quickly shift." Kitch was "very hands-on," trying to prevent Rucker from taking on art commissions outside the office. The director promoted Rucker's peer Kathy Hsieh to be his supervisor, after which Rucker "suddenly received a series of write ups and 'personnel notes' that served to create a record of negative behavior."
Rucker describes an extremely toxic working environment at the OAC, with Hsieh writing him up "multiple times over a very short period of time." He struggled to get ahold of his file to find out what had been written. Once he did, Rucker found "a written reprimand, three personnel assessment notes totaling thirteen pages, and a mid-year performance review that included misinformation, misspellings, and ramblings." Hsieh—who still works at the OAC, mind you—also assessed Rucker as having "post-traumatic-slave-syndrome." Here's Rucker's description of what she said:
"One of the most concerning sections involved the supervisor portraying me as a troublemaker and suggesting my behavior and mental state were related to my history as a descendant of enslaved people, using the idea of 'post-traumatic-slave-syndrome.'
Referring to the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), the City’s commitment to eliminate racial disparities and achieve racial equity in Seattle, she wrote, 'My honest assessment is that he is exhibiting signs of what in RSJI lingo is referred to as post-traumatic-slave-syndrome. When he perceives that he is a target is [sic] reacts defensively and does not act reasonably.'"
After suffering panic attacks, loss of sleep, and increased anxiety, Rucker quit the OAC in 2012. He said that he reached out to HR, then-mayor Mike McGinn, the Seattle Arts Commission, and the Seattle City Council about the issue, but no one pursued the issue. In the rest of his piece, he talks about the difficulty of navigating arts administration as a Black person, a field rife with "structural barriers that are put in place that don’t allow equitable access to employment" and insidious racism. OAC acting director Calandra Childers released a statement about the article this afternoon:
A former staff member...has recently shared his experiences during his time as an employee of the Office. The experiences and trauma he describes are difficult to read and he describes a culture of white supremacy that does not reflect our values. https://t.co/klX9amsNjk pic.twitter.com/YVC3TG0GnQ
— Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (@SeattleArts) May 27, 2021
If wildfires during the spring months can be telling of what’s to come in the summer months, it's looking rough already: In April of 2021, the Washington State DNR fought 225 fires compared to last year’s 160. The ten-year average is around 160 per year. The Stranger's Matt Baume talked with Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz about the upcoming wildfire season.
A Very Important Poll.
The transit worker who killed nine people at a rail yard in San Jose, California, has a history of violent outbursts and threats toward women, according to the murderer's ex-wife and former girlfriend.
We're rounding the corner on the pandemic, but the losses are still coming. Keep taking care of each other.
While we were reopening, 10 more people in King County were reported dead today from COVID-19 complications. The way these losses come when the virus spreads is excruciating and relentless. Love to families and workers still caring for those who get sick https://t.co/cqdugwil0J pic.twitter.com/g98AuPafg5
— jseattle (@jseattle) May 27, 2021
John Davis, one of the actual singers behind the popular fakey singing duo Milli Vanilli, is dead: He died of COVID-19 at the age of 66.