CLIVE, Iowa -- Brandon Ellingson's parents have filed two federal lawsuits. Their son drowned while in custody of a Missouri state highway trooper back in May at the Lake of the Ozarks. Ellingson was handcuffed in a police boat after getting cited for being drunk. He either fell or jumped into the water and drowned. The trooper says he put a life vest on Ellingson but it came off in the water.
“The whole thing is, my son is supposed to be protected when he’s taken into possession by the highway patrol and he should have been safe and he should still be here,” says Craig Ellingson. “What he [Trooper Tony Piercy] did was inconceivable and he needs to pay the price for that, he needs to be charged with manslaughter for what he did.”
The lawsuits accuse the Missouri State Patrol of negligence. They also claim the Morgan County coroner conspired to cover up the facts in Ellingson's death. The corner ruled there was no wrongdoing on the part of the state patrol.
“We know a lot about what happened but there is lot that hasn’t been uncovered to us that we know about and we just want the truth to the come out and the people responsible to come forward and tell the truth,” says Ellingson.
A witness from Missouri drove to Iowa and talked with Channel 13. Larry Moreau says he supports the lawsuits. He and his family were at the lake that day of the incident and saw Brandon standing up in the patrol boat. Moreau say he did not see Ellingson fall into the water but he believes that’s the part authorities are keeping from the public. Moreau did say he saw the trooper maneuver his boat quickly towards the man in the water but didn’t immediately reach in to grab Ellingson.
“It’s hard to comprehend how this officer could have known this kid was handcuffed and took him that long to get back to him, says Moreau. “But who in their right mind would not at least make an attempt to reach down and grab the person when they are that close.”
On Sunday a vigil will be held at Valley High School beginning at 5pm. There will be a moment of silence at 5:23 to remember Ellingson on what would have been his 21st birthday.