A 33-year-old black man who died in police custody in Tacoma, Washington, screamed “I breathe” on audio dispatcher, a lawyer for the man’s family said.
Marcus Ellis was apprehended by police March 3 when officers allegedly saw him “trying to open the car doors of occupied vehicles,” Tacoma police said. according to CNN.
Ellis had to be physically restrained because he was “combative,” police said. The officers called for medical aid when they saw he needed help, according to authorities, but Ellis died at the scene.
Ellis died of respiratory arrest stemming from hypoxia caused by restraint, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled. Four police officers, two white, one black and one Asian, have not been fired but have been placed on administrative leave.
In an audio recording, heard on the Broadcastify website, officers can be heard requesting hobbles – leg restraints – at around 11:26 p.m. About 50 seconds later, as an officer relays a message to the dispatcher, a male voice can be heard in the background exclaiming, “I breathe.”
The family is positive the voice on the recording is their son, lawyer James Bible told CNN.
“This family has listened to it repeatedly over and over again in heartbreaking fashion,” he said.
After Broadcastify posted the audio, the Tacoma Action Collective posted two videos Friday night that appeared to show a black man being struck and pinned down by police.
Bible identified the man as Ellis. Not clear if the videos were made before or after the cry of “I’m breathing” was heard on audio dispatcher, CNN said.
After the videos surfaced, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards called for the four pairs to be fired and prosecuted.
The Tacoma Police Union in turn accused her of unfairly passing judgment “without any facts, without investigation, without due process, and with less than a minute of short, blurry, partial Twitter videos in hand.”