Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Highway Patrol Sued over Drowning of Handcuffed Man at Lake of the Ozarks (Copy)

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Highway Patrol Sued over Drowning of Handcuffed Man at Lake of the Ozarks (Copy)

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * The parents of a man who drowned in handcuffs while being arrested by a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper at the Lake of the Ozarks sued the officer and agency in federal court here on Friday.

The lawsuit, over the arrest and death of Brandon Ellingson, seeks unspecified damages on eight counts relative to negligent training and civil rights violations.

Included are allegations that the Missouri Highway Patrol tried to cover up the incident and deflect blame from Trooper Anthony Piercy onto Ellingson. It points in particular to how Piercy used the wrong type of life jacket on Ellingson, after his arms were handcuffed behind his back.

Ellingson, a student at Arizona State University, had been driving his family's boat, a 28-foot Sea Ray called the "Sotally Tober," with several of his friends on May 31 when Piercy stopped it after seeing a Bud Light can tossed into the water.

Piercy arrested Ellingson, suspecting he was intoxicated. Ellingson toppled into the water after the patrol boat hit a wake. A coroner's inquest in September ruled the drowning an accident.

"By bringing this action in federal court, Craig and Sherry Ellingson seek the justice which has so far been denied," a statement from the parents' attorneys said. "It is their hope that, through filing this complaint, the truth of Brandon's death can finally be told."

Piercy, an 18-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, testified at the coroner's inquest that he was confident in his abilities on the road but had limited training for work on the water.

He said he was never trained specifically on how to arrest someone on the water or how to put a life vest on a secured suspect.

The lawsuit describes how Piercy pulled a pre-buckled "Type III life jacket" over Ellingson's head, with the bottom of life jacket resting above his belly button and the top buckle around his chin. …

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