Brandon Ellingson’s pal took a shot of the arrest by Trooper Anthony Piercy on May 31, 2014. An hour later Ellingson drowned. Piercy called a supervisor at 6:28 p.m. about an hour after Brandon Ellingson drowned in the Lake of the Ozarks.
The Ellingson family, filed the lawsuit in federal court on Dec. 5, 2014, which initially named the state, Missouri Highway Patrol and several top commanders and troopers, as well as state trooper, Anthony Piercy, who stopped Ellingson on May 31, 2014 for boating while intoxicated.
Trooper Anthony Piercy, 45, was later charged with involuntary manslaughter in December. While the family is happy with the settlement, which was announced Thursday, they were hoping for a little more.
Ellingson family lawyer Matt Boles was speaking to the Kansas City Star “The silence is deafening,” Boles said. “No apology, no ‘Sorry for your loss.'”
“The money isn’t going to bring Brandon back, but at least that amount shows they are at fault,” Brandon’s father Craig Ellingson told the newspaper. “If they weren’t at fault, they would have kept fighting us.”
Trooper Peircy said he tried to use a pole with a hook on the end to snare Ellingson and then jumped in the water after seeing the life jacket slip off. He is on trial for involuntary manslaughter, a Class C felony
A Missouri state trooper, Anthony Piercy, was charged with involuntary manslaughter after a handcuffed man drowned in his custody in 2014.
A special prosecutor said veteran trooper Anthony Piercy’s reckless actions caused the death of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson. The college student from Iowa was arrested and handcuffed by Piercy on suspicion of being under the influence while operating a boat on Lake of the Ozarks on May 31, 2014.
The lawsuit was filed just two days before Brandon was to turn 21, claimed that the highway patrol and the state attempted to cover up what happened.
The initial official account by authorities was that Piercy was transporting Ellingson to a station to take a breath-alcohol test. That’s when officials say the man in their custody stood up, with his arms pulled behind his back in handcuffs, and either fell or jumped off the state patrol boat.
Trooper Piercy was charged with making false statements :
“As Piercy sped through rough waves, Brandon was involuntarily ejected from the boat into the water,” according to the lawsuit.
“Piercy, in his subsequent reports, falsely stated that Brandon had jumped, hands cuffed behind his back, from the moving vessel.”
The narrative was later amended to read that Brandon drowned after a wave had knocked him overboard. Police report also states that Piercy jumped in and tried to help, but Brandon’s life jacket fell off and he disappeared. His body was found the following day.
Craig Ellingson (second left), his wife and daughter, Jennifer, sued the state of Missouri, the Highway Patrol and trooper Piercy for the drowning death of Brandon Ellingson (left)
Brandon’s parents took offense with the investigation completed by Cpl. Eric Stacks and Sgt. Chris Harris, who also along with Col. Ronald K. Replogle, Capt. Greg Kindle and Morgan County coroner M.B. Jones. The victim’s father, Craig Ellingson, said: “It was a cover-up from the beginning”.
Their lawsuit contended that the Missouri Highway Patrol is liable in Ellingson’s death and trooper Piercy, an 18-year veteran officer, wasn’t adequately trained to work the water: “Trooper Piercy’s attempts at a rescue failed as he did not know how to operate his own state-issued equipment,” the lawsuit claims.
After the award was announced, the family’s reaction was less than enthusiastic.
“Nine million dollars is a sizable settlement indicating that there was clearly an undeniable liability on behalf of Tony Piercy and his actions,” Family lawyer attorney Matt Boles said. “What the family has always wanted is for the state of Missouri to accept responsibility for what Tony Piercy did to Brandon and (the state) wrote a check.”
But, he said, the family still feels it has not yet seen sincere remorse or heard words of condolence from the state or highway patrol.
“The silence is deafening,” Boles said. “No apology, no ‘Sorry for your loss.’ ”
In a statement, Capt. John Hotz of the State Highway Patrol said its mission “is to serve and protect all people, and any loss of life is a tragedy.”
“With this case now settled through the court system, the patrol will have no additional comment on this matter,” Capt. John Hotz said.
The Ellingson family have maintained all along that their suit wasn’t about the money but about uncovering exactly what happened that day in 2014 and what the state and highway patrol did to try to conceal it.
“We knew … that it was a cover-up from the beginning,” Craig Ellingson said.
Not having their day in civil court is one reason the settlement is difficult for Sherry Ellingson, Brandon’s mother.
“The rest of the corruption that surrounds this will not see the light of day,” she told The Star. “The lying, the keeping the information from us, the changing of stories. That really saddens me and is hard to let go of.”
With the settlement, the civil suit concludes and the family has turned attention the criminal case against Piercy. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, a Class C felony, in December. That case is set for a hearing Monday in Morgan County. Trooper Anthony Piercy has been on unpaid administrative leave, since.