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.