Family Questions Law Enforcement’s Account of Events Leading Up to Man’s Death

Ryan Ellis was in trouble. The 29-year-old was picked up by sheriff's deputies when he reportedly got too close to his estranged wife's house, violating a restraining order. The deputies then discovered he had an arrest warrant for violating his parole.

Ellis wound up in the back of the sheriff's car, headed for jail, breathing what would likely be his last breaths of free air for a while.

"This happens a lot. This happens frequently with us where arrestees kick out our windows," said Sgt. Tony Turnbull with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

It happened on this stretch of road, on Watt, where his family has gathered in the days since.

Sheriff's deputies report that Ellis, who had been placed into handcuffs and had been arrested peacefully, kicked out the rear window, jumped out of the car, and fatally hit his head.

"Hey, he was a loving, caring person. He was somebody's son, he was somebody's nephew," said Ellis' aunt, Tiffany Diamond.

His family, his aunt and mother, are now questioning the depictions deputies have given of Ellis' death.

"Right is right and wrong is wrong. And it just does not add up that Ryan kicked out a window, and jumped out the back of a police car, moving, on the top of his head," said Angela Ellis, Ryan's mother.

The deputy who was driving said the car was slowing down when it all happened but hadn't stopped because they were waiting for backup.

"So he had kicked it out, hooked his leg over and jumped out of the car while it was moving," Turnbull said.

The sheriff's department has an open death investigation in the case.

"I know that they sometimes are threatened for their lives, because we all know it's a cruel, crazy world. But I'm pretty sure most of them have a child... and that was my son," said Angela Ellis