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Coroner’s Inquest Set for Clive Man Who Died in Police Custody

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MORGAN COUNTY, Missouri -- A court proceeding will examine the drowning of a young Clive man who went overboard while handcuffed by a Missouri State Highway Patrol. Officials are holding a coroner’s inquest in Missouri’s Morgan County Justice Center Thursday. This type of proceeding is unusual and used when the manner of death is questionable. A lot of these questions are usually answered by the footage captured from the patrol boat’s three cameras. But officials have no footage, because none of the cameras had SD cards to record what happened.

Brandon Ellingson, 20, drowned last May in the Lake of the Ozarks while in custody of a Missouri State Trooper. Ellingson was arrested on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. He was being moved across the lake on a state patrol boat when he fell or jumped into the water. Ellingson was handcuffed and wearing a life vest, but he slipped out of the jacket.

Witnesses say Ellingson’s hands were not in the armholes of the jacket when he went overboard. Ellingson’s family is also questioning the type of life vest the trooper used. Patrol officials say the trooper used a type III life preserver. Experts say officers are supposed to use a type I life preserver which can turn an unconscious person face up and has the most buoyancy.

Six jurors will review the evidence. Their decision will play a large role in whether or not the prosecutor presses charges. But either way, the Ellingson family plans on filing a wrongful death lawsuit.


  • zn0rseman

    First off, who cares what class of life preserver is used when a person isn’t in it. The MSP claims he was in a life preserver, but draping one over someone’s head without putting their arms in it will do absolutely nothing but come off instantly if they go in the water.

    The MSP in the Osarks has a history of plopping people in the back of a boat, draping a life jacket over their heads, and going 80MPH across some of the roughest inland water on the planet while the person bounces around helplessly in the back.

    If charges are filed, the institution that is the Missouri State Patrol needs to be held responsible, not the individual officer who was did what he was trained to do and following standard practice.

  • BrutallyHonest

    How about be responsible, dont drink under age, dont drink and drive/boat and dont stand up in a moving boat. There is no way he “just fell over board”. If he wasnt breaking the law, he wouldnt have been arrested thus would still be alive.

      • shark lasers

        There are so many things that I could say here. People make mistakes and run afoul of the law. In the United States we pursue criminals more aggressively than just about anyone in the world. So you conclude that because he was arrested he deserved his death and no one should care? You want our justice system to work like your older brother is in charge for the weekend while your parents are out of town? Do we need to know what happened to the SD cards? The men that arresteed him have a responsibility to safely transfer their prisoner to the arms of justice. They failed in their job, but since the cameras have been tampered with that creates suspicion. Two wrongs don’t make a right. You were taught then when you were a child. I’m glad that we had the opportuunity to communicate. You should think about what is coming out of you before you spew it all over everyone else.

    • Sue

      Yep, he certainly didn’t deserve to die for his crimes, but, if he hadn’t done anything wrong, he wouldn’t have been arrested either. Had he hit a family, because he was drinking and driving, and killed someone, that person certainly would not have deserved to die for HIS crimes either.

    • Mike Cee

      Not only had he been drinking, but according to Missouri State Patrol criminal investigator. Cpl. Eric Stacks cocaine was found in his system. If he hadn’t been drinking and doing drugs, this never would have happened.

      • Get Real

        Holy speculation, everyone. “What if he’d hit a family!” “He did DRUGS!” The investigation is based on the facts of what happened, not the never-ending spiral of what-ifs and speculations. I hope none of you are ever on a jury, as apparently breaking the law justifies someone’s death, regardless of improper procedure and behavior on the part of law enforcement. Blindly believing law enforcement is never in the wrong is why we’re seeing so much unrest across the country. Jeesh.

      • Sue

        Well, @GetReal, I believe I came right out and said, ‘he didn’t deserve to die for his crimes’.
        The police officer had a duty to arrest him if he was driving his boat in an unsafe manner and if he suspected him of being drunk. Was the arrest handled right? It doesn’t sound like it. Was arresting him the right thing to do? You bet. IF HE WAS DRUNK AND DRIVING IN AN UNSAFE MANNER, HE COULD HAVE KILLED SOMEONE ELSE!!! No one wants to acknowledge that fact. It was a definite possibility. If he had killed someone, you’d be mad that he wasn’t arrested before that happened.

      • Get Real

        Sue, you are so right. Similarly, police procedures are in place, because when they are not followed PEOPLE COULD DIE.

        Oh wait, that’s exactly what happened, but let’s blame the kid for drinking as if that justifies the cop being lazy.

    • Lady J

      So everyone who breaks any law deserves to die? Next time you go 1 mph over the speed limit do you deserve to die because you broke the law? Do you think the cop/cops who put the wrong type of life preserver on the suspect deserve to die?

  • Denice

    If your job requires you to transport people across water you should be fully trained in water rescue and boating regulations. I am sure that doesn’t include draping a life vest over someone’s head . The law should apply to all including the officers involved. They broke it when they put the life vest on improperly.

    • BrutallyHonest

      Wearing a life vest is not a requirement by law, unless you are under 16 years of age. Dont drink under age and break the law and you you wont get arrested.

      • Get Real

        He was arrested under suspicion of drinking and boating. As in, not proven. Good thing law enforcement never makes a mistake in arresting and detaining people, otherwise this could easily happen to you, BrutallyHonest, and people would think you actually deserved to drown!

      • BrutallyHonest

        To respond to the response from “Get Real” ….. I could tread water while handcuffed. Thats something you are able to do while sober and not loaded up with alcohol and cocain.

      • noncentsicle

        Brutallyhonest, let me know when and where you will be demonstrating your ability to tread water while handcuffed and sober. I’m certain I’ll also be witnessing your drowning.

  • noncentsicle

    I don’t recall seeing anywhere he had been convicted of a crime. Our justice system system is based on the presumption of innocence. The trooper essentially executed him through his negligence. To suggest that he somehow deserved to die because he’d been drinking is the most illogical thinking I’ve heard and is incomprehensible to me. Put your son or brother or even yourself in that situation and I suspect your line of thinking changes real quick. The punishment may have been deserving of a ticket or even jail time. Most murderers are not executed for their crimes, so I hardly see the justification of such punishment for suspicion of drinking while boating.

    • BrutallyHonest

      Never said he deserved to die, however he put himself in that situatoin by breaking the law. Are you condoning underage drinking and driving? This kid put the officer in a poor situation by breaking the law. If he obeys the laws and does not drink under age, then neither of them are in this situation.

      • Are you serious?

        Jesus, he was drinking underage. Sure he should be held partially accountable, but wtf about the officers. How do they let someone die in their custody like that. He was drinking, he died, oh well. Christ, I hope you guys don’t need some tragedy like this happen to a relative or friend of yours before you acknowledge that the arresting officers are at fault here as well.

      • Get Real

        He put the officers in danger? Funny how every officer on the boat probably had a properly secured life vest and movement of their arms. Police are there to protect and serve, not be made into a higher class of persons who can disregard procedure for those despicable underage drinkers. The horror!

      • noncentsicle

        I certainly don’t condone underage drinking and driving but when the officer took him into custody he had an obligation to ensure his safety. By not properly securing his life vest, it was by his negligence that Brandon is dead. All of the other details are moot.

  • Brian

    Do I understand you correctly “BrutallyHonest”, when you see to beleive that the kid was at fault because he was suspected of having been drinking?

    Man, that’s an incredibly unintelligent answer. So if I arrest you tomorrow because I suspect that you have been drinking, and I shoot you in the head by mistake while you are handcuffed in the back of my squad car, than it is your fault because you might have been doing something illegal?

    Just making sure I understand your ridiculous attempt at logic.

    • BrutallyHonest

      WEll now that is just rediculous. If you were arresting me under suspicion of drinking then why would you have your gun out in the first place? HAHAHA, again, dont break the law and your not in that situation. And you would never get arrested for suspicion of OWI, you would first fail a breathalizer or the other soriety tests first to prove you were drunk. Its not that he might have been doing something illegal, he was doing something illegal, if anyone should be held responsible it should be those who purchased the alcohol for him.

  • BrutallyDishonest?

    Anyone else get the feeling “BRUTALLYHONEST” might be the officer who destroyed the footage from the cameras? Sure would make a lot more sense as to why he’s so insistent on police not being held accountable.

    • Sue

      I don’t want to speak for BrutallyHonest, but, I have seen, and agreed with, a lot of his posts out here. I do not believe he is the officer from Missouri. I believe he is a law-abiding citizen who sympathizes with the family and friends of this young man. I believe he also does not condone breaking the law. Most of BH’s posts are pretty level headed if you actually read them. This guy did not deserve to die. I don’t think anyone believes he did deserve to die. I have certainly not seen where anyone said that.
      The kid DID deserve to be taken in to custody for endangering others on that were on the lake with his reckless activity. I would hope the police would arrest a drunk driver to save lives too, not just look the other way.
      BrutallyHonest, my apologies if I have misspoken regarding what I think you are trying to convey!

      • Carlton

        No one is even arguing that he shouldn’t have been taken into custody. He should have been taken into custody, which then means that he was taken to a police station and charges filed. What people are arguing is that the officers did a poor job of taking him into custody when they failed the one qualification for that, which is “Show up with suspected criminal”. They were negligent of his safety due to improperly securing the life vest and possibly destroying evidence (sd cards). That’s it. End of story.

  • Ms.Frances

    All that led up to his arrest is terrible…my prayers go our to the victims family!
    But…once a suspect is officially arrested, he/she becomes the responsibility of the arresting officer(s)…they should be liable for his death, regardless of what he did or had in his system at the time of the arrest!

  • pat studer

    the victim was drunk and having fun, most people have done that sometime in their lives, i know i have! this kid deserved better, the cop needs to be held responsible as well as the highway patrol, the truth needs to be told, no more lies, interview ALL the witnesses, put the cop under oath, get the truth, this is not going away!

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