A Sheriff brought on a cop who killed Black man. He defended his decision on Reddit.

Thurston County Sheriff/FB (Licensed)

Extremely online sheriff used Reddit to defend hiring cop who killed Black man—the cop resigned the next day

The backlash on the site was severe.


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Apr 5, 2024   Updated on Apr 5, 2024, 9:34 am CDT

A Washington state police officer who was acquitted in the 2020 death of a Black man in December 2023 was hired at a different police department in the state earlier this week. After receiving backlash online and explaining his reasoning for the hiring on Reddit, Sheriff Derek Sanders announced the police officer resigned.

Manuel Ellis died while in the custody of three Tacoma, Washington police officers four years ago. Ellis, who was 33, was “handcuffed and hogtied,” K5, a Washington local news outlet reported. The three officers involved, Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins, and Timothy Rankine, were charged with murder and manslaughter for Ellis’s death. All three were found not guilty in December.

On April 1, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had hired Christopher Burbank and another officer, ending a three-year hiring drought for the Sheriff’s Department, which had been looking for lateral hires like Burbank. Thurston County is about 40 miles from Tacoma, Washington

“Deputy Burbank joins us with 14 years of patrol experience,” a Sheriff’s Office Facebook post read. “And will provide immediate relief in our patrol division.”

The hiring announcement received a variety of comments: Some defended Sanders’ decision to bring on Burbank, given the department was strapped for new hires, while others were disappointed.

“For all those who like to armchair quarterback on the decision to hire Burbank, please feel free to apply for the entry-level position or reserve deputy position at TCSO or your local police/sheriff departments to fill the overwhelming vacancies,” one person commented on the Facebook hiring announcement.

“We don’t need a murderer to serve and protect our country,” wrote another. “This is unbelievable. Sheriff, there went my vote next election; as well as many others I am sure. How dare you.”

A Reddit user who goes by u/BravoHawkes on the site specifically called out Sanders and his hiring decision, too, on April 2. They also added that Sanders’ past transparency impressed them.

“Sheriff Saunders, your friend killed my friend,” u/BravoHawkes wrote in a post on the r/Olympia subreddit. “Why hire this guy?”

The post received 4,000 upvotes and over 1,000 comments.

Sanders responded on April 2 from his own Reddit account, u/SandersForSheriff, and said his background investigators looked into “every aspect” of Burbank’s life.

In the end, Sanders wrote his team “came to the same conclusion as the jury,” that Burbank was not guilty of Ellis’s death.

“Burbank has no other discipline outside of a few fender bender collisions. People feel very strongly on both sides of this issue, and it certainly isn’t hard to understand why,” Sanders wrote in his Reddit comment. “How many different layers have to weigh in that someone is innocent before they are deemed as such? Burbank has been cleared at so many different levels, including the one that matters most: a trial before his peers.”

Sanders is extremely active on the site, posting nearly every other day, using the forum to highlight arrests and successes in the department.

Sanders’ comment received more than 200 downvotes and many critical replies.

“This is why people say ‘ACAB,'” u/Throttle_Kitty responded. ACAB is an abbreviation for “all cops are bastards,” a phrase that spiked in popularity after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. “Because the ones who aren’t outwardly bad themselves enable and protect the bad ones.”

“It should be readily evident that this is an individual that is not trusted by a noteworthy portion of the population,” said another. “He is expected to be working with in a position of trust. This poses a direct conflict in the office with the public. How do you justify this decision in light of that fact?”

On Wednesday, Sanders posted a letter to the community on Facebook announcing that Burbank had resigned from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department. He wrote that his hiring Burbank was a lapse in judgment and apologized.

“When I made the decision to hire Deputy Burbank, I failed to consider the greater community impact,” Sanders wrote. “I recognize the harm this has caused to marginalized communities, and I was wrong.”

He also said he will be planning a public forum to hear from the Thurston County community about the events that transpired.

“I recognize that there are spaces I may no longer be welcome in, and this is a challenging reality for me to accept,” Sanders wrote. “I will continue to learn and improve.”

u/BravoHawkes, who initially called Sanders out on Reddit, celebrated the news in a comment on their original post.

“Our community was heard and Christopher Burbank has resigned. Thank you all for weighing in, and thank you to Sheriff Sanders for your response,” they wrote. “I hope you’ll continue to listen to your community in order to build better trust and make better hiring decisions in the future.”

The internet is chaotic—but we’ll break it down for you in one daily email. Sign up for the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter here to get the best (and worst) of the internet straight into your inbox.

Share this article
*First Published: Apr 5, 2024, 8:45 am CDT