DES MOINES, Iowa -- A Clive father says a coroner’s inquest into his son’s death on the Lake of the Ozark’s was a “joke.”
Twenty-year-old Brandon Ellingson drowned last May while in the custody of a Missouri State Trooper patrolling the water.
After deliberating for about five minutes Thursday, the jury decided Ellingson’s death was an accident and the officer should not be held criminally responsible. But numerous questions remain about Ellingson’s death and the investigation itself.
Trooper Anthony Piercy handcuffed Ellingson around 5:30 p.m. for alleged boating while intoxicated. Ellingson somehow fell out of the boat while Piercy was transporting him to shore. Though a life jacket had been put on Ellingson it appears it wasn’t secured properly and it fell off when he hit the water.
Piercy jumped in the water but was unable to save Ellingson.
About 9:45 p.m., the Missouri State Patrol contacted Brandon’s father, Craig.
“Proceeded to tell me the boat had capsized. Piercy was the driver. Brandon was tossed out and drowned,” Craig says.
Meanwhile, the young men who’d been boating with Brandon were still waiting for their friend. As part of the investigation, the Missouri State Patrol interviewed them. According to transcripts officers told them ,“Brandon had gotten aggressive and that we could get him in the morning… this is what happens when your friends get aggressive.”
The friends say they were relieved to know Brandon was still alive.
But at that point, Brandon had been dead for roughly four hours.
We asked Brandon’s father if he knew the officers lied about that. He responded, “Yah, they’ve never brought any of this stuff out, so this is why it needs to be uncovered and investigated a lot further.”
Based on Craig Ellingson’s account, that wasn’t the only lie. The patrol boat didn’t capsize and he says his son wasn’t aggressive. He wants a multi-tiered investigation, starting with Anthony Piercy, the officer who arrested Brandon.
“That’s pretty sad to know that you’re paying someone money to go out and protect people and he doesn’t know how to use his equipment,” says Craig.
Piercy testified Thursday he wasn’t trained on how to use the life jackets. That’s backed up by Grandon’s friends, who described how Piercy placed the life jacket on Brandon.
“I would describe it as tubing it over him. He basically just stuck Brandon’s head through the head hole and just pulled it down so it was resting on his shoulders,” says a friend. “It went right above probably his lower ribs… I mean, it wasn’t fully on him.”
Some allege training requirements became lax when Missouri’s State Troopers started patrolling the water three years ago. It was an attempt to save money, but Craig Ellingson wonders if it cost his son his life.
He says, “Hopefully they’ll change their laws so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”