New documents shed light on fatal struggle in county jail

Mental illness and meth were factors in the accidental death of Marcus Manning last year.

Marcus Manning (Department of Corrections)

Marcus Manning (Department of Corrections)

EVERETT — A prolonged struggle with police and corrections deputies preceded Marcus Manning’s death in the Snohomish County Jail in 2017, according to public records recently obtained by The Daily Herald.

County prosecutor Mark Roe issued a letter to detectives earlier this year, saying he had read the case file but declined to conduct a formal review. On Friday, Roe said that “tragic as his death was,” there was no reason to suspect any wrongdoing by law enforcement.

In the early hours of Aug. 31, 2017, Manning, 35, resisted officers during his arrest, and again during booking at the jail, records show. Officers reportedly punched, kneed and used a stun gun on Manning while attempting to subdue him.

He died from excited delirium, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. That condition has been described as an extremely agitated state often associated with deaths in police custody. Mental illness and substance abuse are common factors.

Manning’s death was ruled an accident. He reportedly lived with bipolar disorder. He also had enough methamphetamine in him to cause a “fatal outcome in some users,” the medical examiner noted.

The investigation was conducted by detectives with the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, and the report gives a detailed timeline.

The events leading up to Manning’s death took place over a few hours, starting a little before 12:30 a.m., when police first received a call. By 3:30 a.m., medics stopped lifesaving efforts in the jail.

It began with a suspicious person report. A woman called 911 when she saw Manning acting strange and fidgeting with something in his pocket outside of a motel in Everett. Another couple said they saw him peering inside cars.

Not long after, Manning started knocking on the door of a bus parked at a 7-Eleven. A man who lived on the bus was inside at the time, along with his mother and nephew, who were obscured by blackout curtains. He traded words with Manning, who appeared jittery and asked odd questions. The man became concerned and called police.

Everett police found Manning at a nearby store. Manning sat on a curb and talked with an officer at length, records show.

Manning had trouble staying on topic during the conversation and said he was bipolar, according to police. The officer noted that he didn’t think Manning was on drugs.

The officer told Manning he was free to go and suggested a place to sleep for the night.

Instead, Manning went back to the bus and tried to force his way inside, the report says.

The man who lived on the bus yelled for help. The officers, who were still nearby, came and told Manning to place his hands behind his back. When he didn’t, they each grabbed one of his arms, according to the report.

Manning allegedly fought back. He flexed and thrashed his arms and refused commands.

The police threw him down on the ground and twisted his arms to get him to comply. Manning didn’t seem to feel any pain, they said. He was unusually strong. Officers weighing twice as much as him reportedly struggled to keep Manning on the ground.

Eventually police were able to get him in cuffs. He continued resisting, spitting blood on the ground and yelling that he was the guardian of every child in the world, detectives were told.

Officers took Manning to the county jail, where they said he continued to be combative in the booking area.

During the struggle, Manning allegedly gripped the fingers of two corrections officers, who said they were in pain and worried their bones would be broken. They punched Manning at least three times. When Manning still wouldn’t let go, the officers used a stun gun on his upper thigh for five seconds.

Manning released his grasp, but he continued to resist efforts to place him in a restraint chair.

After more scuffling, which included an officer kneeing Manning in the shoulder, the deputies were able to secure him.

A nurse tried to assess Manning but couldn’t get a blood pressure reading. He didn’t move and wouldn’t speak. Smelling salts couldn’t wake him up, either.

The nurse confirmed Manning was unconscious and not breathing. Corrections officers removed the restraints and tried CPR.

By 3:30 a.m., they stopped lifesaving efforts.

Manning’s death shares similarities with that of Bill Williams, who died in custody in 2012.

Both had diagnosed mental disorders and both died from excited delirium after a struggle with officers. In each instance, officers shocked the victim with a stun gun.

There are differences, too. The medical examiner ruled Williams’ death a homicide. Roe reviewed what happened in that case and determined the force was justified.

In Manning’s case, methamphetamine was a contributing factor.

And while Williams was never booked into the jail before, Manning had previous run-ins with the law.

In 2000, Manning pleaded guilty to raping two of his cousins, when they were 3 and 7 years old. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and served eight. He was imprisoned again in 2012 and 2013.

He was called into court again a couple of months before his arrest. He was overdue on financial obligations related to the earlier case, according to court records.

He was accused of resisting arrest in a separate incident in the weeks before he died. In that case, he was under investigation for a misdemeanor involving domestic violence. Charges were pending.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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