Did Merger of Missouri Law Enforcement Agencies Contribute to Ellingson’s Death?

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DES MOINES, Iowa — A Missouri politician has formed a bi-partisan committee to determine if a merger between the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Lake of the Ozarks Water Patrol compromised safety on the lake.

House Speaker Tim Jones created the committee in response to the drowning death of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson of Clive.

Trooper Anthony Piercy arrested Ellingson for allegedly boating while intoxicated on May 31. Ellingson went into the water while handcuffed during the boat ride back to shore and drowned.

Piercy later acknowledged he placed the wrong life jacket on Ellingson, which came off shortly after Ellingson hit the water.

Missouri governor Jay Nixon merged the Highway Patrol and the Water Patrol in 2010 in hopes of saving about $3 million a year. But some have complained the troopers aren’t properly trained to work on the water.

A grand jury determined the death was an accident and earlier this month a special prosecutor in the case said criminal charges would not be filed against Piercy in the case.

Ellingson’s family wants the Department of Justice to investigate the drowning.

Iowa senator Charles Grassley, who heads the Judiciary Committee, says he plans to meet with the family later this month.

“In the meantime, we’ve asked their lawyer to put together all the evidence that they can put together that they want the Attorney General of the United States, Mister Holder, to have a federal investigation. And I will, I’ve committed to them through their lawyer when that evidence is presented to me of making sure that it gets in Bill Holder’s hands and that he gives it serious consideration,” says Grassley.

The Legislative Committee in Missouri is expected to meet within the next month.


  • Concerned Iowan

    So let me get this straight. The kid is breaking the law and then jumps out of the boat to further break the law. Accidently drowns and the family is outraged and wants justice. Yes this is an unfortunate incident but the family only has themselves or their child to blame for what happened. People need to be held accountable for their actions and decisions. Even with the “wrong” life jacket on he wouldn’t have drowned had he not jumped from the boat.

    • Justice

      So called (concerned) “Iowan”..have you actually followed this story or are you trying to help a relative who is involved in the death of this young man cover up? Your comment is ridiculous. The person who needs to be held accountable is the cop who is responsible for this tragedy.

      • BrutallyHonest

        So this kid has no responsibility in this? This is what is wrong with our society, its never our own fault. Always looking for someone to blame and then sue. Get over it, he caused this himself, dont drink under age and dont do drugs and you probably will not be in this situatoin. Also, I KNOW i could tread water while handcuffed WHILE SOBER, so again, dont drink under age and dont do drugs then your life will not end up in someone elses hands.

    • hitechsailor

      This kid was no angel, but even an underage BWI should not lead to a death sentence. Once he decided to make the arrest, the officer had a duty to follow the protocol. He admitted he didn’t and the final result was the loss of life. The officer was way too confident and way too under trained and experienced to be operating solo on one of the most challenging days of the the year on that lake. He was an accident waiting to happen and unfortunately it did.

      As for your conclusion that Ellingson jumped off the boat, first I would suggest you read the officer’s various and inconsistent testimony regarding his boat operations, the water conditions and his orders to Ellingson moments before he was separated from the boat. Second you need to think about Ellingson’s ability to react to those orders with a .268 BAC. Typically a person with that BAC will have very little motor skill control and will be close to, if not passed out. The officer’s testimony of Ellingson’s physical state backs that up. Given the speed the boat was traveling in the rough waters where the incident occurred, it would have been difficult for a sober person to have stayed in the center console seat without the use of their hands; for someone with that BAC and wearing a life jacket/straight jacket? Highly unlikely. In his condition, Ellingson should have been seated on the sole of the boat. Finally, when items 1 and 2 are overlaid with the GPS speed data published to date, there are plenty of reasons to doubt that Ellingson left the boat voluntarily. The GPS track data needs to be thoroughly examined. That data combined with the speed and water condition information will tell a professional water incident investigator volumes about the forces being applied to the occupants of the boat. I won’t be surprised to learn that the combination led to Ellingson being launched from his seat to a spot against the gunwale from where he then toppled into the water head first. (And yes, the officer testified that Ellingson did leave the boat head first.)

  • John

    Dear Concerned For Protecting Police Crimes. Attempting to cover up the gross negligence that causes a persons life to end is despicable. Calling yourself an Iowan, much less concerned gives away your shill position. I suspect you are neither concerned, nor an Iowan, but someone protecting the crimes of the State against humanity. You are morally devoid and a liability to mankind. Enjoy hell.

    • BrutallyHonest

      He shouldnt have done cocain and drink under age and been irresponsible and he wouldnt have gotten arrested in the first place. Karma i guess got him. You take risks and sometimes it cost you your life, just like in this situation. The only one responsible besides himself would be the one that bought him the alcohol and the coke dealer.

    • BrutallyHonest

      Concerned Iowan’s facts are not too far off. The kid was 3 times over the legal limit for BAC and high on coke. Bad decissions on his part cost him his life.

      • hitechsailor

        The report stated traces of coke. Detectable levels usually defined as traces can be in the blood stream for eight days. Given the .268 BAC, I doubt the coke had much to do with his impairment.

  • Rebecca Hergert

    I think it didn’t help the young man being high on something & the cop not properly knowing how to put a life-jacket on the subject.
    I would suggest the family’s attorney to wait a yr to file a civil suit.
    My husband thinks, ‘the cop still has to save him, no matter what happen’.
    As a Boone County resident for 19 yrs. I have seen law enforcement’s mistakes here. I even see church members mistakes. People even see Branstad’s mistakes.
    I remember back home in 1987, a met a gal, we were in group session & she was married to a Cedar Rapids Police Officer & she told me, ‘It’s not all that great living with him’!!

  • american conservative

    eric holder investigate the death of an American white man?? hahahahahahahahaha. I am definitely on the side of this fine young man who tragically lost his life, but I know Eric Holder certainly isn’t.

    • Justice

      To Concervative…I hear that. Holder is not interested in the laws of this country. He’s only concerned about the ones he can make up.

  • BrutallyHonest

    This story is old news. He broke the law, high on cocain, 3 times the legal limit for BAC, jumps from the officers boat and the family is choosing to blame others for their sons irresponsibility. YES i have been following this story and frankly am tired of hearing about it. IF HE DOESNT BREAK THE LAW IN THE FIRST PLACE HE DOESNT GET ARRESTED, SIMPLE AS THAT. Dont do things where your fate will be in someone elses hands and this doesnt happen. Definately a very bad situatoin for this kid, but he put himself in that position.

  • George Hilbert

    Another victim of America’s war on non-violent crime. If a cop “inadvertently” destroys a life in the an attempt to enforce “safety,” he should be held responsible. Not held not responsible as if nothing happened.

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