Clive Man Drowns While in Police Custody

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Image courtesy the Des Moines Register

LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Missouri – Police in Missouri are looking into how a handcuffed Clive man drowned while in custody.

20 year old Brandon Ellingson died Saturday at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.

He had just been arrested for drunken boating and either jumped or fell from a police boat into the water.

“He’s probably the toughest kid I’ve ever seen play hockey,” said Rock Naert, a former assistant coach for the Des Moines Capitals hockey team.

Naert had high hopes for the former captain of his hockey team.

“He would have done great things with his life,” said Naert.

A former student at West Des Moines Valley High School and standout football player for the Tigers, Ellingson got four years of hockey coaching from Naert.

“I watched him become a man,” Naert told Channel 13 News.

What type of man Ellingson would have become will never be realized.

“The trooper dove in and tried to save him but was unfortunately unable to do so,” said Sgt. Paul Reinsch of the Missouri State Patrol.

Missouri authorities say Ellingson was placed in a patrol boat and being transported to take a Breathalyzer test after being arrested.

At some point, he stood up and either jumped or fell from the boat.

With his hands cuffed behind his back and no seat belts, his only protection was a vest style life jacket.

“It’s designed to keep a person afloat if it’s properly worn,” said Reinsch.

Authorities say it slipped off and they’re investigating how that happened.

Naert hopes authorities also look into their procedures for making water arrests.

“I have absolutely no idea why you would ever put someone in handcuffs on a boat,” said Naert.

In Iowa, suspects are also cuffed when arrested on the water.

Aron Arthur, a conservation officer with the Iowa DNR says he can’t comment on the incident in Missouri.

He says it is standard practice to use handcuffs for the officers’ safety, but adds that the suspect and their life jacket should be properly secured inside the boat.

“If it’s placed on their properly, it should stay on,” said Arthur.

According to his friends, Ellingson was studying business at Arizona State University.

The officer who arrested him has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.


A Clive man, after he had been placed in law enforcement custody, somehow fell out of a boat and drowned at the Lake of the Ozarks over the weekend.

The Missouri Highway Patrol said it happened about 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

The patrol said law enforcement was transporting Brandon Ellingson, 20, across the lake after they cited him for boating while intoxicated. Officials said Ellingson had been wearing a life jacket and was handcuffed at the time.

Officials said Ellingson stood up in the boat and either fell or jumped overboard.

A dive team recovered his body shortly before 11:30 a.m. Sunday.


    • glockgirl70

      Everyone start slamming on law enforcement before you know the whole story. Welcome to social media!

  • Delanea w

    So you DO know? At any rate, multiple flaws here on both sides. 1: why was (as already mentioned) he cuffed in such an unsafe way. (Meaning why were no saftey devices used IE: life jackets, life preserver, saftey line, ect, ect. 2: Which officer was responsible for supervising the offender? In case there is an answer to #2, then 3: What exactly was that officer doing at the time the offender jumped/fell? If there was supervision, Then why did it take 18 hrs to recover the body? Normally, if someone is under supervision, the supervisor would see when,where,and how an incident happened., thus resulting in an extremely shorter recovery period, correct? & 4: where are his “buddies”, or was this a solo boating trip? 5: did not ONE person think about their actions? I get the whole “Dude!! Lets take the boat out, grab some brewskies, and make this weekend count!!!” But at what point should one, JUST ONE, participant take a second to consider possible outcomes?

  • RIP Brandon

    How about you show some respect and keep your accusations to your self. There is a grieving community here who just lost an amazing young man. Please keep him and his loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.

  • John Philips

    A unconscious man was pulled out of Saylorville lake and was revived by a bunch of people that were boating next to him. Of course WHOtv never puts anything positive in the news just the depressing stuff. The gentleman would of had to have died for whotv to put in the news.

  • Amy

    Its a terrible event but what needs to be remembered is that what seems like small decisions add up into unbearable tragedy. The decision to be drinking in public when you are not of legal age, the decision of the boat owners to allow an underage person who has been drinking to operate their boat, and the decision of the Highway Patrol to not properly fassen a life jacket (if that is what occured) all lead to this unthinkable and definitely avoidable situation. My prayers go out to him and his family.

  • Tom Smalley

    Sad a life was cut short But Really if police strap people in in a squad car , then REALLY , someone messed up , did the police boat have vests ? or a seat belt , heck they chain you to a bench in a Des moines Jail cell , sad

  • Ginger

    Brandon Ellingson was an amazing person and was loved by many people. I could not be more devastated to lose such a wonderful friend like him. So everyone please pray for his family and friends and stop the negative comments. The world lost an amazing person yesterday. R.I.P. Love you Bubba!

  • Adam

    How can you handcuff a drunk kid on a boat and not put any life vests or anything on him? How is this possible.. I don’t understand how no one could have saved him. This is just tradegic and so sad to hear. I can’t believe it. RIP BRANDON YOU WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED AND MISSED.

  • pat scarset

    I can see a lawsuit coming on! If he was in custody, they should of had eyes on him the entire time. How do they not know what happened to him? Somebody’s hiding something. I don’t need any more details of this story to determine what really went on. Why did it take them so long to find him? If he had a life vest on then he wouldn’t have went under. I bet I could figure out what happened….dude was drunk and talking crap so someone decided to rid of him by knocking him off the boat.

  • Justice

    Of course this would happen in the state of Misery. I never knew this young man. However, this is a sad thing that happened for his family and friends. Is a young man’s life worth this for drinking?…..Absolutely NOT!! Do I smell a lawsuite? I sure hope so.

  • Name

    Prayers to his family & friends. But please make this a lesson to those operating boats…please do not drive & drink. No different than being in car…actually more dangerous with water. Also under age drinking…if there is a lawsuit…it should be to the person who provided the alcohol. Feel for family but he was definitely in the wrong.

    • Marissa


      • jess

        I’m sure Brandon was a great young man. He’s far from the first to drink while underage, he’s far from the first to operate a motor vehicle while drinking. The DNR definitely messed up in the way they were transporting him.
        But, Brandon broke two laws (underage drinking and OWI) in order to put himself, and others, into a dangerous situation.
        Would you be saying that he wasn’t at fault at all if he had, being drunk, hit another boat and killed a family? Dangerous actions sometimes have consequences.

      • Brian

        You are a fool. When a person is handcuffed and in the custody of the police, it is their responsibility to protect that person. They did not.

        In this case, it sounds to me like the “officer” didn’t even know his prisoner was gone for quite some time. Which is why they had no idea where he went under the water, and didn’t find the body until it floated up to the surface.

        That is absolute incompetence.

  • A Friend

    To the person above ^^ “name”

    This isn’t about drinking and operating, clearly this accident was caused by the negligence of a state police officer. And hello, do you know anything about this country? It may be against the law but how many 20 year old college boys have you seen enjoy beautiful days on a boat completely sober? Don’t be so naïve. People don’t deserve to die while in custody pending a charge that may never have even surfaced past a breathalyzer test (because the Police Sgt. couldn’t even confirm a field sobriety test took place). Plus they don’t remember how fast the boat was even going? I mean part of their job is to ensure the safety of all boaters on the lake. He was at more risk of danger in the custody of that officer than if he were to have another 20 beers on that boat. SO don’t EVER blame this poor young man who died in vain because of the pure negligence and lack of responsibility from a safety officer. Shame to their entire department. I hope the lawsuit ensues.

    • jess

      he didn’t deserve to die for his actions, that is for sure. But, what if he had hit and killed a family of boaters while drunk? Would THEY have deserved to die for his actions? It sounds like there were a lot of errors on the arresting officer’s part. there were errors on Brandon’s part as well.

      • A Friend

        There are plenty of “what if’s”
        I mean what if that DNR cop never arrested Brandon, the kids boated until they were done and Brandon made it home safely? THAT’S something that would be a lot more likely to happen. Brandon was a very smart, responsible young man. The moment that incompetent officer arrested him and took him into his custody, Brandon’s safety was more at risk than anyone else’s at the lake.

    • Jess

      No, the argument is still valid. The officer pulled him off of the water to AVOID giving him the chance to hit a boat. I assume that there was a reason they pulled him over, just like drunk driving in a car. Unless MO has the staff to stop each and every boater on the water and check to see if they are drinking.

      Are you saying that we should allow someone to drink and drive a car…as long as they don’t hit anyone?

      • A Friend

        The Sgt could not confirm a field sobriety test took place never less a breathalyzer. He was arrested under the presumption of being drunk. We don’t know how intoxicated Brandon was or if he even was at all.

        I’m not saying people should be allowed to drive drunk, but I am saying it happens more often than not especially on a boat. In this case, how could they arrest him and take him in if they weren’t even sure if he was drunk!? Whatever the circumstances I’m sure if Brandon had never been arrested, he would have safely operated the vehicle home.

      • Brian

        Are YOU saying that the DNR shoudl be able to pull over and arrest anyone without cause? Cause it sure sounds like that’s what you’re advocating,

      • Change is Needed

        Jess, you clearly don’t get it. Nobody is making an argument that he should not have been arrested if in fact he was intoxicated. The issue is what happened after he was arrested and in the custody of water patrol. If the PFD had been put on properly this young man would still be alive today. That’s the point. The water patrol protocol for this situation is not correct and that must change so this does not happen again.

    • Jess

      You are right, there are a lot of What If’s. I do feel very sorry for the loss of your friend. I apologize if I have been insensitive or added to your pain in any way.
      I think sometimes when you are not related directed to it, you see it more as a situation then a person.
      Marissa, my apologies to you as well if I have offended you or added to your grief with my comments.
      I am not defending the way the officers took Brandon into custody in any way. I was just pointing out that if they thought he was intoxicated, or driving his boat recklessly, they were trying to do their job by stopping him.

  • Marissa

    Brandon was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. The life jacket he was “wearing” was placed on his shoulders, unbuckled. There was one officer in the boat who was driving. This is no one’s fault but the police, one stupid officer has taken someone’s life because of his laziness to properly buckle him in or pay attention. Brandon Ellingson did not jump out of that boat, and they used a improper life jacket draped over his shoulders, with hands cuffed behind his back. This trooper was driving way too fast for the conditions, there should be 2 troopers on every boat. we need answers. If he had a life jacket on why was he not saved by the trooper driving the boat.This wonderful young man died a tragic death in the hands of an incompetent state trooper.

    • Sally

      Where you there? It sounds like maybe you were with him? I am very sorry for the loss of your friend.

  • RoccoB

    Typical overzealous DNR boat coppers.
    They think the lake is their own personal lake and HATE all boaters.
    I seriously doubt if any of these lake cops can swim let alone spell the word “cat.”
    State of MO might as well fill out a huge settlement check now .

  • Guess who

    Booze,booze and more booze. No one’s ever jumped from a boat handcuffed after useing cannabis.

  • heartbroken

    This is very very sad! Very sorry to hear of this loss of life! Please everyone pray for this family!
    I personally have a place at the Lake of the Ozarks! I have seen these Missouri State Patrol officers patrolling the lake. I have never seen more than one officer in a boat. So, it’s up to this one officer to take care of the individuals. This individual should have had a life jacket on!! And if this individual was not cooperating then the officer should have called in for help so this individual could be transported in a safe and secure manner. This is no different than when I’m driving my boat, it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to make sure everyone is safe. This was the Missouri State Patrol’s responsibility to transport this individual safely and they DIDN’T DO IT! Plain and simple!
    It’s so sad that we as individuals have to learn a lesson by a tragedy like this! I think this family should get answers on what actually happened!
    I’m so sorry to hear of a young life cut short!
    I pray for this family and friends at this very difficult time!

  • Patti Guy Sheeler

    Prayers to the Ellingson family and friends. This was a young man that was acting like most young men his age. He was cutting loose and having fun at the beginning of summer. This is a tragedy and I hope this doesn’t just get swept under the rug by the Missouri State Patrol. He was their responsibility. He was drunk and possibly not able to make rational decisions, therefore, the officer should be held accountable for his death, period. It won’t bring him back, but the irresponsibility of the patrolman should be punishable.

  • John

    According to Iowa Courts Online Brandon had a clean record, not even a traffic ticket. What a tragic loss. My prayers go out to his family.

  • RoccoB

    Obvious the PFD was not put on the guy properly, fell off, or not on at all. Just draping the thing over the guy’s shoulders is laughable.
    Even with hand-cuffs on a fitted PFD should enable you to float face up granted you do not sustain head trauma falling in, get caught under the water surface on debris, or in a moving water situation.
    These DNR guys screwed up big time.

  • Brian

    Why did they handcuff a guy, on a boat, who was not resisting?

    Why was he not secured in a life vest if he required handcuffs? (Which he did not, based on the reports.)

    How was he able to, stand up in/fall out of, a moving boat while in custody? Do they not supervise people in custody, on a boat, in the middle of a lake, while handcuffed and unable to swim?

    Frankly, I have been pulled over by early 20-somethings posing as DNR agents twice. Both times it was over absolutely nothing. They were fishing to see if I was jetskiing while drinking and had no legit excuse to pull me over. Both times they were power-drunk, threatening and unprofessional, and both times they seemed woefully untrained and unable to comprehend basic rights, probable cause, and they didn’t even know the rules of the water. In neither instance was I doing anything wrong, nor was a cited.

    I’m assuming these kids were part timers, brought in to hand out tickets and generate revenue, during holdiay weekends.

    My guess is, that is exactly what happened in this case. And a good man has needlessly died as a result of it.

  • heartbroken

    If you want to read the report from the Missouri Highway Patrol regarding this incident. Go to
    There is no way a life jacket was buckled on this individual. Cause if he had one on and buckled, he would have floated and the officer could have picked him back up again. Instead his family is planning a funeral for a loved one. Very very SAD!!!
    Pray for his family and his friends!

  • zn0rseman

    Sometimes I read things, and it infuriates me in many ways. In the case of a kid from my home town, Brandon Ellingson, not only the fact that a young man with a bright future had his life cut short by a horrible amount of negligence, but the response from people with regard to it is disgusting. I’ve read this story on a number of sites and the response from those affiliated with law enforcement is horrible.

    They seem to believe that if you are even suspected of drinking and are placed in police custody, that your death is entirely your fault, and really, you deserved to die.

    That’s appalling. Those people, and all of their friends and family, should be embarrassed and ashamed.

  • Cindy

    Negligent homicide in the least. To all the fools who say he broke the law, first of all that was not yet proven prior to his death. second of all, since when is drinking and driving deserving of death penalty without harming anyone? Third, to all the supermen who could tread water in the same situation, I can walk on concrete when drunk or sober but can not walk on concrete after falling out of a moving vehicle at 70 MPH. Water is like concrete at that speed. I once fell into water at less than 20 MPH and suffered concussion & disorientation for over 30 mins. Fortunately my life vest as secured.

  • Nick

    The guy was 20 and drinking and drunk. He did not sit down in the boat, he was not doing what the Officer told him to do. He was breaking the law in several ways. By his own stupidity he is now dead. Why is it that whenever somebody dies he is automatically made out to be some kind of Saint? and the cop is the bad guy? If the cop had not arrested him he could have run his boat over another boat and killed ten people. If he was such a good person he would not be driving a boat drunk and underage. Lets call a spade a spade people.

    • Kate

      Nick, there is no evidence he was drunk yet. If you don’t want people to automatically make assumptions about the cop being in the wrong then maybe you should practice what you preach and stop assuming that Brandon was in the wrong? If there was no foul play then the officer would not be on administrative leave. Also, how do you know he jumped out of the boat? He could have easily fallen out of the boat, which is what the officers are saying. It looks like you are the one who is assuming here and we all know what happens when you assume. I’m just calling a spade a spade. I did not know the victim but I have a soul and even if he was drunk driving and jumped out of the boat is that really something that is punishable by death?

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