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2 officers involved in Manuel Ellis’ fatal arrest return to duty

Tacoma Police Department

(TACOMA, Wash.) -- Two Tacoma Police Department officers are back on the job and have been cleared of wrongdoing in the detention and arrest of Manuel "Mannie" Ellis, according to Interim Chief Mike Ake.

"After a thorough review of the department’s Internal Affairs investigation, which included criminal investigations by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Washington State Patrol and Attorney General’s office, the facts in the case led Interim Chief Ake to his decision," according to a statement from the department.

Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, died in police custody after being repeatedly hit, pinned to the ground and put in a spit mask by officers on March 3, 2020, according to prosecutors.

The county medical examiner Thomas Clark ruled Ellis' death as a homicide due to "hypoxia due to physical restraint."

Cellphone video of the incident went viral. Ellis can be heard saying, “Can’t breathe, sir, can’t breath,” while he was being pinned down.

The review found that the actions of Officer Armando Farinas, who put the spit mask on Ellis, and Officer Masiyh Ford, who held his legs when he was being detained and tried "to calm him down," were reasonable.

The Tacoma Police Union praised the decision in a statement posted to Facebook.

"We are pleased to welcome Officers Armando Farinas and Masiyh Ford back to active duty with the Tacoma Police Department," the statement read. "They are dedicated servants to our City and members of our community."

The Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed felony charges against three other officers involved in Ellis' death in May. Officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins were charged with second-degree murder and officer Timothy Rankine was charged with first-degree manslaughter.

All three officers have pleaded not guilty.

ABC News has reached out to their attorneys for comment.

Burbank's attorney, Wayne Fricke, said the department's decision concerning Farinas and Ford will ultimately "also apply to the officers, all of them that are currently charged."

"We expect that ultimately, he's going to be exonerated," Fricke told ABC News.

In a statement following the announcement of criminal charges, the Tacoma police union denounced the decision.

"We are disappointed that facts were ignored in favor of what appears to be a politically motivated witch hunt," the statement read. "We look forward to trial. An unbiased jury will find that the officers broke no laws and, in fact, acted in accordance with the law, their training, and Tacoma Police Department policies."

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