According to a recording captured by a Vivint doorbell camera on a house across the street, prosecutors said, Mr. Ellis said, clearly: “Can’t breathe, sir. Can’t breathe!” Less than 15 seconds later, he can again be heard pleading with the officers, saying either “Breathe sir?” or “Please, sir?” prosecutors said.
Officer Rankine, who is 32 and Asian, was among a group of officers who responded as backup. Prosecutors said he started pressing on Mr. Ellis’s back, getting on top of Mr. Ellis almost as if he were in a “seated position.”
Mr. Ellis can be heard saying again, “I can’t breathe,” and pleading: “Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe, sir,” prosecutors said.
Officer Rankine later recalled, according to prosecutors, hearing Mr. Ellis say “in a very calm, normal voice” that he could not breathe and responding that “if you’re talking to me, you can breathe just fine.”
An officer put a spit hood on Mr. Ellis’s head, while he was hogtied on his stomach and while Officer Rankine was applying pressure to his back, prosecutors said. The brand of spit hood includes instructions that specifically state that it should not be used on anyone “having difficulty breathing,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Mr. Ellis remained under Officer Rankine, hogtied and face down, for six to nine minutes until the Fire Department arrived. Mr. Ellis’s last known words were the same ones he had repeated throughout the attack, prosecutors said: “Can’t breathe.”
He was declared dead at the scene, prosecutors said.
The Pierce County medical examiner at the time, Dr. Thomas Clark, determined that the cause of death was “hypoxia,” or a lack of oxygen, “due to physical restraint,” prosecutors said.